Lincoln Dahlberg: Facebook’s Quality Initiatives and the Ideological Staging of the Public Sphere

Since the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook has announced and implemented an impressive array of what Lincoln Dahlberg refers to as "quality initiatives" in response to extensive allegations and evidence that it hosts and amplifies a significant amount of content and interaction that is harmful to democratic communication. These initiatives do not seem to respond to the political economy critique that there is an antagonistic relationship between Facebook’s profitdriven, targeted-advertising business model and public sphere communication.

Location: Weizenbaum Institute, Hardenbergstraße 32, 10623 Berlin, Room A103 – A105


Time: Tuesday, June 18 2019 06:00 PM until Tuesday, June 18 2019 07:30 PM


Weizenbaum meets


In his paper Lincoln Dahlberg demonstrates – through a discourse theory-informed examination of Facebook’s own descriptions of its quality initiatives – how the initiatives do in fact strongly respond to this critique. However, they do not do so by altering Facebook’s business model. As his examination shows, the initiatives respond ideologically to the political economy critique. They do this by staging compatibility between Facebook’s business model and public sphere communication, thus obscuring antagonism and blocking public consideration of regulatory responses that might inhibit the platform’s profit, growth, and market valuation. In conclusion, he points past the targeted-advertising model to the drive for profit and growth – and the associated domination of users – as the core factor behind Facebook’s antagonistic relationship with the public sphere. Hence, he identifies the democratisation of digital social media intermediaries as necessary for the production of democratic communication through such media.

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