Social Media and the Public Interest: Media Regulation in the Disinformation Age

Philip M. Napoli (Author)


Facebook, a platform created by undergraduates in a Harvard dorm room, has transformed the ways millions of people consume news, understand the world, and participate in the political process. Despite taking on many of journalism's traditional roles, Facebook and other platforms, such as Twitter and Google, have presented themselves as tech companies--and therefore not subject to the same regulations and ethical codes as conventional media organizations. Challenging such superficial distinctions, Philip M. Napoli offers a timely and persuasive case for understanding and governing social media as news media, with a fundamental obligation to serve the public interest.

Social Media and the Public Interest explores how and why social media platforms became so central to news consumption and distribution as they met many of the challenges of finding information--and audiences--online. Napoli illustrates the implications of a system in which coders and engineers drive out journalists and editors as the gatekeepers who determine media content. He argues that a social media-driven news ecosystem represents a case of market failure in what he calls the algorithmic marketplace of ideas. To respond, we need to rethink fundamental elements of media governance based on a revitalized concept of the public interest. A compelling examination of the intersection of social media and journalism, Social Media and the Public Interest offers valuable insights for the democratic governance of today's most influential shapers of news.

Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publish Date
August 27, 2019
6.2 X 1.1 X 9.1 inches | 1.2 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Philip M. Napoli is the James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, where he is also a faculty affiliate with the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. His previous books include Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace (2003) and Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences (2010), both from Columbia University Press.


While recent episodes have raised questions about algorithmic manipulation and discrimination, what remained missing was a truly comprehensive account, one that not only synthesizes the state of affairs but also offers a conceptual framework for interpreting these developments in light of public policy, news values and ethics, and the future of the public sphere. This book bridges that gap.--Seth C. Lewis, University of Oregon
Drawing on the history of U.S. media regulation, Napoli offers an insightful framework for reimagining how social media can serve the public interest. Social Media and the Public Interest is an essential text for policy makers and those struggling to reduce the harm of caustic content and misinformation.--danah boyd, author of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
Napoli takes up the daunting challenge of lassoing and taming the wild social media beasts that have wreaked so much havoc in democracies around the world. This book is bold, clear, and necessary. Readers of this book will gain a deep historical understanding of the complex relationship among social media platforms, news producers, citizens, and the state.--Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy
While "public interest analyses" are common in the discussion of communications technology, television, and journalism, such analyses have not usually been used to frame algorithmic platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. For that reason, Social Media and the Public Interest is a major contribution to the literature on communication, regulation, and digital media.--C. W. Anderson, author of Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age
This market failure is so deep, Napoli argues, that it cannot be solved by conventional antitrust or other competition policies. Instead, he argues, Americans must embrace rigorous regulation of social media platforms so that they are made to serve public purposes.--Washington Monthly