Facebook and the Public Sphere: Assessing the responsibility of a dominant social media platform through the lens of the public sphere
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This thesis analyses the relation between the public sphere as described by Jürgen Habermas and Facebook. It addresses the two main concerns for Facebook as a modern digital medium: fake news and polarisation. Subsequently, this thesis aims to answer the question of whose responsibility it is to tackle these problems. It will be argued how Facebook is the responsible party in doing this, which will be supported by the extent to which Facebook resembles a public sphere. Firstly, the public sphere as described by Habermas will be discussed. From this, the norms that define and regulate this as a public sphere will be distilled. Those will subsequently be applied to Facebook, which will show how Facebook in theory lives up to these norms, while in practice it deviates from them. It will also become clear why this inability to live up to the norms does not entail the norms should be abandoned entirely. The problems of fake news and polarisation will be discussed more in depth, and why these problems are especially troublesome in a public sphere. Lastly, after going over all potential actors with regards to their responsibility towards fixing the problems of Facebook, it will become apparent why Facebook is the only party that can and should do this.