Platforms of Post-Truth: Outlines of a Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen, Politiikasta, 10.8.2020


Recent events from the Brexit campaign to the conspiracy theories that spread during the Covid-19 pandemic, have incited diagnoses of a post-truth era. These claims have also spurred a more thorough examination of the political implications of social media. This chapter argues that together with other political developments, social media threatens democratic politics. The emergence over the last decade of social media as central platforms of public discourse interferes with the process of fact-based opinion-formation.

In a historical context, the rise of the social media can be seen as part of the continuum wherein the originally protective function of private ownership of public spaces (e.g. newspapers) has become a mixed blessing. In their search for entertaining content, media companies have started prioritizing provocations and outrage over (or mixed with) facts. The social media platforms, similarly, are interested in data concerning the behavior and preferences of their users. Such data is best acquired by provocations and rage-inciting content, not facts. Since social media have nevertheless become important public spaces, it is critical that legal regulation guarantees access to common sources of factual information. Only such shared points of reference enable the articulation of diverging opinions in a democratic debate.

Find the full article here (in Finnish).