The creation of a standardised market for online publics and its expansion to the long tail of the Web; the quantification of engagement through metrics of clicking and sharing; the emergence of a flourishing clickbait economy and the diffusion of clickbait techniques to all types of communication; the training of online audiences to contribute to the distribution of junk information; the introduction of third-party cookies and the advent of data brokers; the use of deep learning algorithms amplify the consumption of viral contents; the deployment of armies of social and political bots; the rise of micro-celebrities and the pervasiveness of vanity metrics; the emergence of virality-oriented subcultures in specialised platforms and their spread to mainstream media; and the perfecting of political trolling and discussion hijacking. All these developments are aligned to promote a type of attention and of engagement that (because of their ephemerality and shallowness) are opposite to those necessary for a healthy democratic debate. This alignment is not fortuitous or vaguely inspired by the same zeitgeist, but connected through a series of reinforcing relations that need to be empirically exposed and legally dismantled to slow down the rise of junk misinformation. The multiplication of the appeals to truth and fact-checking miss its target for it refers to a regime of information (that of traditional journalism) that could not be further away from that of junk news. It only by understanding the system of digital virality that we can stand against online misinformation.

Thomas Venturini

Venturini, T. (2019). From Fake to Junk News, the Data Politics of Online Virality. In D. Bigo, E.Isin, & E. Ruppert (Eds.), Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights . London: Routledge (forthcoming).