Facebook’s Response to Its Democratic Discontents: Quality Initiatives, Ideology and Education’s Role
Chapter from the book: Stocchetti, M. 2020. The Digital Age and Its Discontents: Critical Reflections in Education.
Following a range of public scandals in recent years, there has been increasing concern and discontent among a wide array of groups about the quality of communications on social media platforms vis-à-vis public sphere norms. Facebook has been involved in the greatest number of these scandals—from enabling Russian propaganda and Macedonian-based hyper-partisan clickbait during the 2016 US presidential election to the Cambridge Analytica affair to distributing hate speech and incitement to violence in Myanmar and elsewhere—and thus has been the greatest target of discontent. In response, Facebook has mounted a major public relations campaign, at the heart of which has been an ongoing stream of announcements about new ‘quality initiatives’ that promise to ensure that the platform’s communications support democratic public spheres as well as private interactions. The first task of this chapter is to provide a sketch of some of the central public sphere-oriented quality initiatives publicized by Facebook. A second task is to outline how these initiatives, while likely to have some positive effects, do not alter the negative impact on the quality of communications that political economy critics point out as resulting from the platform’s profit-driven targeted-advertising business-model. A third task is to summarize a number of ways in which the initiatives actually work ideologically to obscure this negative impact. I conclude the chapter, and this is my fourth and final task, through reflection on what role education can have in terms of helping to advance democracy through Facebook in particular, and digital social media in general, given not only the antagonism between for-profit business models and quality public sphere communications, but also the ideological work that the social media corporation do to conceal this antagonism.
Dahlberg, L. 2020. Facebook’s Response to Its Democratic Discontents: Quality Initiatives, Ideology and Education’s Role. In: Stocchetti, M (ed.), The Digital Age and Its Discontents. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-4-4
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Published on Aug. 11, 2020