In M. A. M. Gansinger & Ayman Kole (eds.), Vortex of the Web. Potentials of the online environment. Hamburg: pp. 15-40 (2018)

Authors
Martin A. M. Gansinger
Al-Akhawayn University
Abstract
This chapter aims to direct attention to the political dimension of the social media age. Although current events like the Cambridge Analytica data breach managed to raise awareness for the issue, the systematically organized and orchestrated mechanisms at play still remain oblivious to most. Next to dangerous monopoly-tendencies among the powerful players on the market, reliance on automated algorithms in dealing with content seems to enable large-scale manipulation that is applied for economical and political purposes alike. The successful replacement of traditional parties by movements based on personality cults around marketable young faces like Emmanuel Macron or Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is strongly linked to products and services offered by an industry that simply provides likes and followers for cash. Inspired by Trump’s monopolization of the Twitter-channel, these new political acteurs use the potential of social media for effective message control, allowing them to avoid confrontations with professional journalists. In addition, an extremely active minority of organized agitators relies on the viral potential of the web to strongly influence and dictate public discourse – suggesting a shift from the Spiral of Silence to the dangerous illusion of a Nexus of Noise.
Keywords Digital Media, Democracy, Political Campaigning, Populism, Public Opinion, Big Data, Micro-Targeting, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica
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