Fausto Colombo, Giovanna Mascheroni

Facebook under Attack. Understanding the Power of Platforms versus the Power of Media

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: platforms, power, discourse, algorithmic governance, moderation.

Starting from the latest controversies around Facebook, summarised in the Facebook/scholars/ Wall Street Journal case and the Facebook papers, this article examines the changing role of platforms in public life against the backdrop of traditional theories of media power. In fact, platforms differ from traditional news media in the nature and scope of their symbolic power: the hegemonic control over information through editorial review is now replaced by the ability to extract, analyse and manipulate data on a large-scale. Platforms’ power, in other words, consists of writing the rules of visibility and dissemination of content. While Facebook, as most social media platforms, has often hidden behind its social construction as a neutral facilitator of networked communication, platform’s power is a form of moderation by a media institution. Our contribution is aimed at suggesting theoretical lenses for contextualising the recent transformations in Facebook’s public face. Accordingly, we examine the different logics informing news media and social media; we then critically review three concurrent discourses around algorithmic power; finally, we conclude theorising algorithms as discourses that construct the rules and set the boundaries of what constitutes a good and healthy democratic debate.

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