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Gilroy-Ware, Marcus (2021) 'What is Wrong with Social Media? An Anti-Capitalist Critique.' Socialist Register, 58 (1).

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As the liberal fantasy of a stable ‘capitalist democracy’ has steadily disintegrated in the last few years, the digital giants – Google, Apple, Twitter, and in particular, Facebook Inc. – have provided some of the most conspicuous evidence of the increasingly bitter and polarized nature of political discourse, having been amongst the main arenas in which many of these discursive conflicts have been played out. This staging has led many people to draw an association between social media and the broader political moment, and often to suggest that there might be causation between the two. There are good reasons to talk about social media together with polarization and other social and political problems. There are also many urgent criticisms of digital platforms that are much deserved, both in connection with these political circumstances and in broader political-economic terms. Unfortunately, however, many of the most frequently cited critiques of social media giants are not only inaccurate, but harmful, because of the ways in which they obscure our understanding of the threats that social media do represent, and the other more immediate causes of this political turbulence; the relative ease with which these erroneous charges can be rebutted; and the missed opportunities they amount to for understanding and protecting ourselves from social media apps appropriately, and responding to reactionary politics more effectively. To resist these criticisms can sometimes appear, to a superficial reader, to be defensive of social media corporations, but the opposite is true: in order to mobilize against the forms of capital that social media corporations represent, the world needs to stop repeating unsustainable arguments that rely on unsubstantiated claims, and that exceptionalize and isolate the pathologies of social media corporations as though they were some kind of unprecedented surprise; and to focus instead on the material and structural factors that are so commonly ignored by liberal and conservative commentaries alike. This essay will offer a summary and critique of these flawed arguments, suggest some alternative critical approaches, and then discuss some broader strategies for addressing the pathologies that social media do represent.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts
ISSN: 00810606
Copyright Statement: © Merlin Press 2021 This is the version of the article/chapter accepted for publication in Socialist Register, 58 (1) published by Merlin Press. Re-use is subject to the publisher’s terms and conditions
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2022 09:17
Related URLs: https://sociali ... issue/view/2541 (Publisher URL)

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