How Privacy Concerns and Social Media Platform Use Affect Online Political Participation in Germany
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Digital inequalities research has investigated who engages in online political participation, finding gaps along socioeconomic variables such as gender and education. Recent research has also highlighted how online platforms may facilitate political participation. Especially for multi-purpose platforms such as Facebook, where users are supposed to use their real names, issues of adequate self-presentation arise. The diversity of multiple audiences engenders privacy concerns, particularly when controversial political issues are discussed. We add to existing research on digital inequalities by focusing on privacy concerns as a critical construct. Using a survey of German Internet users, we test the effect of privacy concerns on online political participation. Unexpectedly, privacy concerns increase political participation. As privacy concerns are spread evenly throughout the population, they contribute little to the socioeconomic stratification of online political participation. Social media use, however, exerts a strong positive effect on political participation, and differs significantly among socioeconomic groups.