Social Media and Dark Leadership

Social Media

“Social media are forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content. Social media provides a way for people to connect to other people using the internet and a host of services. Information can be exchanged, collected, aggregated, and disseminated in a split second” (White, 2011: 9). Today, social media is the fastest and easiest method of getting news, producing discourse, establishing dialogue, and creating an audience. It is the medium used by many phenomena, celebrities, politicians to reach their followers and share their ideas.

According to Perron (1997), social media followership is exceptionally important. The use of social media by law enforcement as a tool for crisis communications is becoming increasingly widespread; the more followers an agency social media account has, the more people they can engage in times of crisis. A terrorist attack, school shooting, or other crisis events could occur in any police jurisdiction in America. Having a large pre-crisis social media following allows agencies to maximize the reach of their emergency messaging in their communities and beyond. The more people who see a message, regardless of where they may live, the more people who can pass the information, extending its reach.

Colkitt (2019) mention that, as private companies, social media websites maintain an immense amount of control over their platforms and the users of their websites. Not only may these companies restrict the speech of their users and suspend any user’s account, but the terms that users agree to follow are also subject to change at any time. This is because, since these companies are not government agents, users are not guaranteed a right to free speech on the companies’ respective platforms.

Arnold, Michael V. and others (2020) say that, with social media playing such a prominent role in today’s political process, it is our goal that the methods presented here can contribute to a broader suite of instruments for analyzing political communication in the digital realm. This is the first piece of an effort to systematically evaluate the communications of US presidents on Twitter.

As Gaughan (2018) emphasizes in the paper “Trump, Twitter, And The Russians: The Growing Obsolescence Of Federal Campaign Finance Law, “The 2016 USA election saw the emergence of a new and increasingly volatile campaign finance landscape. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions have empowered wealthy donors to pour millions of dollars into election campaigns. At the same time, the internet has fundamentally transformed how candidates communicate with voters. Yet, federal elections are still governed by 1970s-era campaign finance regulations, a set of laws that Congress enacted in the age of 8-track tapes, rotary telephones, and floppy disks. The time has come for Congress to modernize federal campaign finance law. FECA’s modernization can be achieved by eliminating contribution limits, closing the dark and gray money loopholes, clarifying and expanding the regulation of foreign influences, and restructuring the FEC. Thanks to these reforms, FECA was finally able to move out of the 1970s into the age of the internet, iPhones, Twitter and Facebook. But on the other hand, Davis & Magaldi (2019) saying that, Twitter and other social media platforms such as this pose new and unprecedented problems for the justice system. With the widespread use of social media and the development of the communication network, the volume and speed of messages have increased exponentially, while for the US, the legal system continues to be slow and cumbersome.

Chegia & Magaldi (2019) adds that , presidents of the United States have never shied away from adopting the latest communication technologies as a means of interacting with the American public. From Coolidge’s use of the radio to President Obama’s first tweet on Twitter, American presidents have known the value in communicating with their public by utilizing technology that the public would use. However, communicating comes at a cost in that the laws have shifted to hold Presidents accountable for their communications, both with individuals directly, and with the masses.

All these aside, while studies are being conducted on social media and its effects, some activities of other social media platforms cause it to be claimed that they have a publisher identity. In particular, the recent 2020 US presidential elections and the events that followed caused the issue to be on the agenda again. So, what is the share of leaders with dark leadership characteristics and autocratic administrations like Trump?

Dark Leadership 

Since leadership is a concept that includes a wide domain, its importance cannot be denied. As the dark dimension of leadership affects this sphere of influence negatively, it includes a wide spectrum from individual to organization, from organization to society. Dark leadership and its sub-dimensions have gained popularity in the international literature over the past 30 years. In the national literature, it has been observed that there are very few studies on this subject. Identifying dark leadership within organizations and organizations and preventing the behavior of dark leaders is important in terms of the benefits it will bring to the life of the individual-organization and therefore society. 

Today, we often hear of government leaders who are incompetent and use their leadership positions for their own benefit: corrupt, despotic, immoral, power-hungry, materialistic, abusive, and those who are more concerned about their image or status. This can be found in the corporate world as well as in the police and military organization. Even some leaders of the Church may be guilty of this. The greatest temptation of those with authority is to “feel mighty and almost like God” – that is above the law and can do anything they want. Most abuses may be due to the dark side not being recognized and overcome. There is a dark side to leadership that needs to be brought to light, to clarity. The dark side, often toxic and destructive, reveals the worst state of the self (Picardal, n.d.).

From a political perspective, to make a small note for future research, it may be a different dark leadership exercise in some countries and regions where we see charismatic leadership turning into dark leadership. In countries where charismatic leadership is given to autocratic governments, the organizational structures in state institutions with the transformation of leaders into dark leaders and the influence of the leaders in these state institutions can be examined. For example, in Turkey or decrease performance in education in countries such as the migration of citizens who cannot find a place for itself in the functioning of the law (Dark leaders notably reduce the organization’s/company’s performance as we said, was causing to change job working in.). Or these dark leadership traces in countries such as China, Singapore and the like, and culturally, perhaps causing Asians to move to Europe and America, so perhaps in terms of dark leadership, who knows? These statements are absolutely scientific – although they do not contain evidence, they are just a suggestion for future studies. I wanted to drop this grade in terms of presenting a different universe of work to dark leadership studies, which mostly consist of examples such as companies and schools. On the dark side of leadership, leaders highlight their personal agendas and use impression management to portray this as an organizational goal. The forces that give birth to this side of leadership are as follows:

Faulty strategic vision when personal goals are set as vital elements of corporate goals. Vision focuses more on personal gains, impression management, and misuse of communication skills. Here, leadership makes the best use of communication skills to justify the vision. In fact, we are striving to realize the vision before the right time generates leadership on the dark side.

The autocratic management style is not in contact with the current system. This style also doesn’t go well in the vertical and horizontal directions.

The trend towards power and personal gain force leadership to apply unethical practices to achieve goals.

Fulfillment of political ambitions also leads to the rise of the dark side of leadership as it encourages people to take an unethical and short-term path.

In contemporary approaches to leadership, particularly in the leadership of change, the assumption that leaders are a constructive force that has a positive impact on the organization and employee performance is implicit. As a result, the overwhelming emphasis in leadership research and development is on factors associated with effective, successful or constructive leadership. The result in these approaches is that ineffective leadership is simply the absence of factors associated with effective leadership. However, this is a false and incomplete leadership view. 

Dark Leaders and Followers

One of the effective ways to understand leadership types is to study followers. Leadership literature discusses the fact that leaders are talented individuals who determine the future of organizations and individuals. There is a complex relationship between dark leaders and their followers, including organizational and individual circumstances. Leaders may engage in inappropriate, unethical or immoral behavior, and followers can contribute intentionally or unintentionally by monitoring immoral, unethical and inappropriate behavior. If there is something negativity on the dark side of leadership, followers play a certain role and bear some responsibility for it. If the dark side of the personality affects leaders, it can affect its followers similarly – it means followers can also be on the dark side. Maybe this means they can be high in Machiavellianism, narcissism, or subclinical psychopathy.


The fact that dark leaders or politicians or managers with dark leadership characteristics present their political-political discourse on social media can confirm unforeseen crises for both these social media companies and countries. For example, old USA President Trump’s tweets caused “2021 storming of the United States Capitol”. What we need to pay attention to here is how to find the fairest path between the leadership policies followed by the relevant social media companies and the users with active leadership positions using these social media platforms in a possible crisis. There are of course the policies these platforms follow. However, rather than forcing social media platforms to decide whether they exist as “platforms” or “broadcasters” and judging them as monopolized, which has become a common discourse-question, we need to see another problem here: the possibility of unlawfulness.

Applications-platforms such as twitter and facebook are the only global media where the public can raise their voices about cracks or dissatisfaction in the system both nationally and internationally. In this sense, it is necessary to reassess the position of such profit-making or non-profit companies in the system they are in, and to decide what to define as a crisis or problem in the context of human rights and equality. They should create a new definition of international crisis management and crisis leadership. The fact that we are saying these also shows the strength of these companies in the international system, on the other hand, it shows that the importance of these channels for the society has increased.

On the other hand, undoubtedly, the “organization designs” and “organizational structures” of these companies will have to change and this creates the possibility of increasing the pressure of the judicial channels of the countries on the new generation companies. Here, we will see over time in line with the decisions that companies will take, how the emphasis on “human rights and law” will be evaluated by companies and how companies will respond to possible threats-actions of dark leaders and authoritarian governments.

Gülsün Taşbunar



Arnold, Michael V. and others (2020), Ratioing the President: An exploration of public engagement with Obama and Trump on Twitter, arXiv:2006.03526v1 [physics.soc-ph]

Chegia, Alivia Magaldi, Jessica A. (2019). “Presidential” Records? Examining The Impact Of The Presidential Records Act On President Trump’s Use Of A Personal Twitter Account. Southern Journal Of Business & Ethics, 11.

Colkitt, A. J. (2019), #BlockedByTrump: Why a Go rump: Why a Government-Run Social Media P ernment-Run Social Media Page on a Privately-Run Platform Cannot Be a Public Forum, Liberty University Law Review, 14(1), Article 6.

Davis, Wade S., Magaldi, Jessica A. (2019). “Into The Bowels Of Hell”: Examining Online Defamation Law Through The Twitter Account Of James Woods, Davis & Magaldi/157

Gaughan, Anthony J. (2018), Trump, Twitter, And The Russians: The Growing Obsolescence Of Federal Campaign Finance Law. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 27(79).

Perron, Zachary P. (1997), Becoming More Than A Digital Bullhorn: Two-Way Engagement On Twitter For Law Enforcement, Stanford University. 

Picardal, A. (n.d.). The Dark Side of Leadership. Retrieved from (Accessed date:11.01.2021).

White, Connie (2011), Social Media, Crisis Communication, and Emergency Management: Utilizing Web 2.0 Technologies, CRC Press.


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