Vortex of the Web. Potentials of the online environment

©2018 Textbook 163 Pages


This volume compiles international contributions that explore the potential risks and chances coming along with the wide-scale migration of society into digital space. Suggesting a shift of paradigm from Spiral of Silence to Nexus of Noise, the opening chapter provides an overview on systematic approaches and mechanisms of manipulation – ranging from populist political players to Cambridge Analytica. After a discussion of the the juxtaposition effects of social media use on social environments, the efficient instrumentalization of Twitter by Turkish politicans in the course of the US-decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is being analyzed. Following a case study of Instagram, Black Lives Matter and racism is a research about the impact of online pornography on the academic performance of university students. Another chapter is pointing out the potential of online tools for the successful relaunch of shadow brands. The closing section of the book deals with the role of social media on the opinion formation about the Euromaidan movement during the Ukrainian revolution and offers a comparative study touching on Russian and Western depictions of political documentaries in the 2000s.


Table Of Contents

List of tables and appendices
Nana Firdausi Mohammed
The impact of online pornography on the academic performance
of university students ... 96
Table 1: Gender ... 104
Table 2: Age ... 104
Table 3: Residence ... 105
Table 4: Orientation ... 105
Table 5: Feeling of sexual urges towards opposite sex ... 106
Table 6: Level of violence towards opposite sex ... 106
Table 7: Regularity of consumption ... 107
Table 8: Change in attitude towards opposite sex ... 107
Table 9: Verbal expression of sexual advances towards opposite sex ... 108
Table 10: Restriction of internet devices on campus ... 109
Table 11: Access to non-academic material online ... 109
Table 12: Parental counseling about watching pornography ... 110
Table 13a: Have you been previously caught by your parents while watching
pornography? ... 110
Table 13b: How strict is online pornography watching prohibited in your home? ... 111
Table 14: Have you ever missed class activities due to watching
online pornography? ... 112
Table 15: Do you get hallucinations of pornographic scenes in class when
lectures are ongoing? ... 112
Table 16: Lower grades due to time wasted on pornography ... 113
Table 17: How pornography affects your relationswith study group members? ... 113
Table 18: Any previous sexual education from parents or teachers ... 114
Table 19: How lucrative is the pornography industry in your opinion? ... 115

Table 20: Have you considered any business idea involving online pornography? . 115
Table 21: Have you visited free site when watching online pornography? ... 116
Table 22: Have you paid for a restricted site to view its content before? ... 116
Table 23: What is the highest amount of subscription you have ever paid for
online pornographic content? ... 117
Anna Babitskaya
A democratic weapon or a humanistic mirror?
A comparative analysis of Western and Russian media depictions of the rise
of political documentary in the 2000s ... 144
Appendix 1 ... 159

About the editors
Dr. Martin Abdel Matin Gansinger (born 1979 in Austria) studied Communication
Science and Political Science at the University of Vienna and passed both with
distinction. His Master's thesis discusses recursive patterns of cultural, social, and
political resistance in various forms of Black American musical expression and the
potential of Hip Hop as an alternative communication-structure for the compensation of
dysfunctional representation through mainstream-media. He furthermore analyzed the
conditions of communication and interaction in regard to the practice of collective
improvisation as a musical method and its correspondence to the concept of the Ideal
Speech Situation as introduced by Habermas ­ as well as its efficiency in the context of
Intercultural Communication ­ to attain a Doctor's degree in Communication Science.
Next to being an editor and journalist for jazzzeit magazine and Vienna-based radio
station orange 94.0 from 2005-2009 he has been working as a PR-coordinator for the
internationally awarded, independent label JazzWerkstatt Records. Martin A. M.
Gansinger conducted several long-term field studies abroad, receiving financial funding
through the University of Vienna's research scholarship. He spent a year in Ghana in
coordination with the Vienna Institue for Development and Cooperation and Prof. John
Collins from the University of Ghana/Accra, researching Intercultural Communication
processes in the context of transfusional West African music styles ­ including an
extended stay at the local compound of the Jamaica-based Bobo Shanti Mansion, one of
the strictest subdivisions of the Rastafarian faith, and allowance to their communal
Nyahbinghi ceremonies. Further field research aiming at extemporaneous
communication techniques and its use in traditional knowledge systems has been done
in Fez/Morocco and the convent of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order in Lefke/Cyprus where
he is working and residing since 2009. He is currently holding the position of an
Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Communication at Girne American University,
teaching Undergraduate-, Master-, and PhD-classes as well as appointed Head of
Department of Public Relations. In 2018, Martin A. M. Gansinger received invitations
to present his work at Freiburg University and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Dr. Ayman Kole (born 1980, Sydney, Australia) completed an experience course at the
prestigious Australian, Film, TV and Radio school whilst still a student studying in

High School in 1996. He studied intensively at the University of Sydney, completing a
BA in Arts with triple majors: English, Performance Studies and Studies in Religion in
2002. He also finished a scriptwriting course at the same University. He worked as a
High School English Teacher before completing his MA in English at the University of
Sydney in 2006. During his studies in the Masters Degree program, he wrote the short
story `The Mirror' which was selected as the Phoenix Journal finalist and published by
Sydney University Press. He later was successfully accepted as a PhD student at Charles
Sturt University to commence work on his thesis encompassing Literature, History and
Creative Writing. His objective was to explore the historical, cultural and social
landscape of Eastern Europe and the Middle East with a focus on the 17
century and
he spent time in Turkey and Cyprus conducting thorough historical research. In his
work, Ayman investigated how people can be manipulated and just how quickly firmly
held beliefs can be either modified or replaced in light of effectively staged
performances. Furthermore, his thesis aimed to alert inquisitive minds to the cons and
trickery of harmful or pretentious movements and this message can be applied to the
realm of religion and politics today. One of Ayman's strengths in writing is his richly
detailed research and his ability to create a fascinating narrative not from only one
cultural perspective, but from many competing social groups of the selected era. Indeed,
his profound insightfulness of the 17
century, illustrating the differences and
commonalities between the major religions of the area are just as relevant today as they
were in the past. His novel `Mark of the Crescent' was published in Australia. He
currently he holds an academic position at Cyprus Science University.

Tuba Kalçik
Tuba Kalçik is a graduate of Bilkent University's Faculty of Business Administration.
She completed her Master's degree at Ankara University/Communication Faculty and
finished a Doctorate at Istanbul University/Communication Faculty. Tuba Kalçik
worked as producer and editor in the media sector, conducting interviews for television,
newspapers, magazines, and websites. Kalçik, who works in the field of political
communication and media, is a lecturer at the Department of Public Relations and
Advertising at Istanbul Medipol University.
Sheila Nnabuife Ogochukwu
PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Communication/Girne American University
Ayla Yildirim
Head of International Admissions, Girne American University
Nana Firdausi Mohammed
MA, Girne American University
Aisosa G. Aigbovbiosa
MA Candidate at the Faculty of Communication/Girne American University
Anastasia Kamyshanskaya
MA Candidate at the Faculty of Communication/Girne American University
Anna Babitskaya
MA Candidate at the Faculty of Communication/Girne American University

Technology is not civilization, civilization ain't about the tools that you're making...
It has been a stranger than fiction type of journey, and one that continues to be so. With
the initiary enthusiasm about the collective migration into the webspace during the early
2000s slowly fading, more and more people seem to realize it might as well turn out to
be a proverbial Box of Pandora. Coming as a surprise to some, the content that is being
placed online is not free from many other connotations attached to it. The impact of
social media upon private, political and business is beyond words and the dangers are
not without consequences. Manipulation of the public agenda and other likewise
schemes have already become part of an industry of tools specifically designed for the
internet and targeting internet-users on a daily basis. On the verge to industry 4.0 and
the internet of things, this book attempts to broadly discuss the risks and chances
dwelling in our ever-present virtual environment from various perspectives, such as
politics, philosophy, marketing, education and media.
The first chapter discusses the question of whether or not these newly developing
techniques that have become the paramount source of information for online users
worldwide prove to be compatible with democratic principles. Addressing key events ­
such as the 2018 Facebook data-breach or the new form of message control established
by political actors like Trump, Macron or Austria's Sebastian Kurz ­ the potential
danger of an emerging industry aiming at deceiving consumers and voters is being
stressed. Following is a more general discussion concerning juxtaposition effects of
online communication on the social environment that mainly points out aspects of
gender discrimination and political opinion. Another crucial happening, the US-
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, forms the base for considerations about how
Turkish politician's efficiently instrumentalize social media channels for their purposes
and agendas, explored in Chapter Three. The hijacking of non-political platforms such
as Instagram by political movements like Black Lives Matter is outlined by a respective
case study along the lines of racism and stereotyping in Chapter Four of this book. The
KRS ONE (2006). I'm On The Mic. On LIFE. New York: Antagonist Records.

following chapter explores the impact of online pornography on the academic
performance of university student's based on a research conducted at the European
University of Lefke/Cyprus. Focusing on the role of online tools in the process of
relaunching dormant shadow brands, a case study of Nigerian Airtel is being presented
in Chapter Six. After a short account on the role of social media in the opinion
formation during the Ukrainian revolution in 2014, the book closes with a comparative
study on the depiction of popular political documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11 or
American Zeitgeist in Western and Russian media ­ using Van Dijk's Semantic
Macroproposition and the concept of the Ideological Square.
With this book we hope to present possible areas of future research that further
investigate the potential of the web to improve or threaten the condition of mankind and
society on its various levels. However, as with every other aspect of human inventions
and technological achievements ­ and in slight amendment to another line of the above
quoted KRS ONE ­ it is the consciousness behind the screen that determines if the net
is positive or negative.
Martin A. M. Gansinger Ayman Kole, June 2018

Martin A. M. Gansinger Ayman Kole
clicktatorship and democrazy: Social media and political
Abstract: This chapter aims to direct attention to the political dimension of the social media age.
Although current events like the Cambridge Analytica data breach managed to raise awareness for the
issue, the systematically organized and orchestrated mechanisms at play still remain oblivious to most.
Next to dangerous monopoly-tendencies among the powerful players on the market, reliance on
automated algorithms in dealing with content seems to enable large-scale manipulation that is applied for
economical and political purposes alike. The successful replacement of traditional parties by movements
based on personality cults around marketable young faces like Emmanuel Macron or Austria's Sebastian
Kurz is strongly linked to products and services offered by an industry that simply provides likes and
followers for cash. Inspired by Trump's monopolization of the Twitter-channel, these new political
acteurs use the potential of social media for effective message control, allowing them to avoid
confrontations with professional journalists. In addition, an extremely active minority of organized
agitators relies on the viral potential of the web to strongly influence and dictate public discourse ­
suggesting a shift from the Spiral of Silence to the dangerous illusion of a Nexus of Noise.
Key Words: Social Media, Democracy, Political Campaigning, Public Opinion, Big Data, Micro-

Stranger than fiction?
The question of social media, secrets and targeted discreditation has featured in
countless productions in the film industry, more so of late. For instance, Oliver Stone's
Snowden (Borman Stone, 2016) draws its story from the real-life whistleblowing
activites of Edward Snowden and sets out to highlight the drama and intrigues
associated with the main character's leaking of NSA surveillance procedures. In fact, as
noted by Michelle Singeltary's (2013) Washington Post article titled Edward Snowden ­
The Price of Being a `Whistleblower', the real Snowden is on record for declaring `I
can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government, to destroy privacy, internet
freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance
machine they are building' from a Hong Kong hotel where he was hiding.
Furthermore, conspiracy-laden films have always been steadily churned out by
Hollywood executives, offering intriguing storylines that play on the paranoias of the
media at the time. One must only recall the classic The Manchurian Candidate (Axelrod
Frankenheimer, 1962) starring Frank Sinatra in the role of a Korean War veteran who
is brainwashed by the communists to engage in harmful activities against his own
country, the United States. Years later, some producers must have felt that this
controversial premise warranted an update as the film was remade (Demme, 2004) with
Denzel Washington re-inventing the role as a Gulf War veteran instead. Interestingly,
the communist threat was replaced by sinister Global corporations in the new version.
It appears that computers and top-secret government programs are not really a new
thing in film, as even a cursory glance reveals such genre efforts like WarGames
(Schneider Badham, 1983). The plot concerns a young hacker who breaks into the
military computer system via a telephone modem to play a video game, unaware that
the game is a program containing actual missile launch codes that could trigger nuclear
war between the US and the Soviets. The film plays on the Cold War paranoias, coupled
with computer glitches in the defense systems and identity theft.
Moreover, Hackers (Peyser Softly, 1995) made when the internet was still somewhat
new and not so widespread, tried to take advantage of the cyberpunk culture that was
considered hip among teens, and had its main characters using online handles such as

Acid Burn and Crash Override, as well as its villain using the internet alias The Plague.
Indeed, the cyber culture was taken further with the futuristic Johnny Mnemonic
(Carmody Longo, 1995) which had a young Keanu Reeves playing a courier who
delivers illegal or secret data directly downloaded into a microchip-implant in his brain.
Furthermore, the iconic science-fiction thriller The Matrix (Silver The Wachowski
Brothers, 1999) also starred Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers he has a
larger role as savior to mankind after he bands together with a group of techno-rebels.
The internet took another sinister turn in The Net (Cowan Winkler, 1995) with Sandra
Bullock's character in peril, facing identity theft. These films and similar themed
productions demonstrated that society was on the brink of a major change in the way we
dealt with banking, private emails, and the overall handling of our personal information.
Although, it cannot be denied that the internet has changed our world and the way we
interact and conduct business, it has also vastly impacted the film industry as well.
Once, especially during the films of the 1990s, the internet was seen as a sinister threat
that heroes and heroines had to combat to save the day, but now, the internet has
evolved in such a great capacity, that the film industry itself has finally met its
challenge. Indeed, the internet has affected how a film is now marketed. More films are
released on streaming networks instead of cinema theatres, and in some cases, films are
being made directly for the streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon
Facebook and social media platforms are also playing a central role in creating
awareness for a new film. Thus, marketing for the film is fast evolving: the traditional
methods of television trailers, home-video (VHS) and cinema previews have now been
replaced by YouTube trailer uploads, Facebook pages, its multiple shares and sponsored
advertising. As a matter of fact, in his article titled The Internet Totally Freaked Out
Over The Star Wars Trailer for wired.com, Jordan Crucciola relayed that the trailer for
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was able to reach over 1 million clicks and views in just
23 minutes via this method on social media, thus proving that the power of social
network could ­ together with its many commenters ­ not only reach large numbers in a
short amount of time, but could too influence perceptions on what can be deemed good,
bad or interesting.

Reality strikes
In May 2017, the Austrian Green Party won a significant court case that forced
Facebook to worldwide remove postings that fullfill the subject of `hate speech' (APA,
2017a). A similar claim has been expressed by former German Minister of Justice,
Heiko Maas, who wanted to legally oblige the social media platform to scan their
network for respective content and remove it. Facebook, however, strongly rejected the
foreseen practice of self-censorship and sees the responsibility for regulating the issue
on the side of the state and respective governmental measurements ­ preferably on a
European level (Etzold, 2017). The announcement of Theresa May to set up a new
national security unit dedicated to the preservation of truthful news content raises a
whole lot of questions in the context of democracy and freedom of speech on its own
(Walker, 2018). Nevertheless, the controversial social network had to face increased
criticism since being accused to provide a platform for `fake news' and hate postings
during the US-election campaign in 2016 (
Oates Moe, 2016; Allcott Gentzkow,
2017), in a quick reaction suggesting the establishment of fact checking units for
uploaded content on their own behalf back then
. Former Austrian Chancelor Christian
Kern ­ in his keynote speech at the European Newspaper Congress ­ openly urged
Facebook to disclose the algorithms that are used to match users and targeted
advertising and demanded the company to be subjected to common media law in order
to balance the distorted means of competiton between social media content and
professional communicators (APA, 2017b). It goes without saying that these algorithms
are to remain the company's best kept secret, since it can be considered the very core of
their business model.
As long as internal guidelines for the removal of explicit content are not bound to the
limitations of the same regulations that media professionals have to consider for their
work, they gain a clear advantage against institutionalized media outlets. Although
former Chancelor Christian Kern criticized the role of institutionalized media in general
in forming a `spiral of populism' with attention-seeking political actors deliberately
delivering the punchlines that sell copies, media monopolys that enable the
glorification of violence tend to be even more endangering for social and democratic co-
existence. Kern further pointed out the problematic condition of a newsmaking industry

that is primarly aiming at the generation of clicks, leaving journalistic decisions
overruled by a fully quantified, algorithm-oriented perspective by stating that
information is subsequently reduced to a product being purchased with data ­ equivalent
to gold in the digital era (Karlsson Clerwall, 2013).
According to Hindman (2008) and Wilson (2008), the relationship between digital
communication and democracy is a rather problematic one anyway. Several authors
have looked into the role of internet and social media in the process of political
participation and direct democracy (
Aitamurto, 2012; Lim, 2012; Loader Mercea
2012; Margolis Moreno-Riaño, 2013). Being one of the first to discuss the impact of
technological developments and reshaped means of capitalization on democratic
societies, Dean's (2002) early critical account on the issue can be found echoing in a
growing number of like-minded studies in the recent past. While Kang and McAllister
had already
focused on the capitalization
of Google users, Marichal (2012)
directly explored the issue of online exposure ­ and self-exposure ­ on social media
channels as a factor for re-shaping concepts of democracy and public life. Helbing et al.
(2017) even suggested a major re-organization of society due to a techno-economical
Pandora's Box that has been opened by the inherent logics of Artificial Intelligence and
Big Data. The case of a considerably large group of Macedonian teenagers from the
sleepy village of Veles that launched a big number of websites filled with manipulated
or made-up news content oriented towards Trump-supporters as an audience ­ cashing
big money from ad revenues ­ is but one demonstration of the undesireable effects of
such a constellation (Ladurner, 2016; Miller, 2016).
Qualman (2010) already dealt with the impact of social media on modern life and
business practices, attesting the biggest success rate to those applications that would
allow users either self-portrayal, competiton or a chance to take on a role as an
esteemed opinion leader (2010, p. 117). Socio-economist Tilman Santarius further
pointed out that consumer-friendly flatrates or cost-free streaming offers are generally
purchased by rather expensive exchange of sensitive private data and demanded
political measurements to avoid unrestricted profitization of personal information
(Laufer, 2017). However, another serious and problematic aspect of the personalized
web is the creation of effectively constructed filter bubbles (Pariser, 2011; Nguyen, Hui,

Harper, Terveen Konstan, 2014;
) that exert a considerable effect on what and how
the user might think about, in a way taking over the Framing and Agenda-Setting
function of the mass media (Meraz, 2009; Sayre, Bode, Shah, Wilcox Shah 2010).
Therefore, next to a pre-existing human tendency for selective exposure to information
according to personal beliefs and opinions (Aronson, 1969; Bandura, 2001), a pre-
selection of estimated fields of interests served on the base of algorithmic calculations
further narrows the scope. A lack of exposure to diversity and conflicting opinions ­ in
a normative sense provided by public broadcast media corporations ­ necessarily results
in a vicious circle of self-affirming informational content that only adds to and tightens
existing convictions. In the sense of a reversed Spiral of Silence-model (Noelle-
Neumann, 1978), the rise and public representation of Nationalist or extremist
movements during the course of the last decade may partly be explained by a
phenomenon that allows controversial anti-social agendas to be circulating in digital
media channels around the world, hence adding a severe boost to the illusionary
widespread acceptance of socially questionable thought and behavior (Yang, Kiang, Ku,
Chiu, Li, 2011; Dean, Bell, Newman, 2012; O'Callaghan, Greene, Conway, Carthy
Cunningham, 2013; Patton, Eschmann Butler, 2013; Awan, 2014; Farwell, 2014;
Klausen, 2015).
On the other side of things, the convenient benefits of automated algorithms seem to be
convincing for the news professionals as well ­ which does not improve the accuracy
and reliability of information published by established media corporations either.
Associated Press is one of the pioneers when it comes to the introduction of machine
learning processes to the newsroom. Since several years the news agency is leaving the
authoring of short messages on issues such as sports, wheather or finance to computer-
based algorithms (Leitner, 2017). However, the Los Angeles Times' `Quakebot'
reporting of an massive earthquake that never happened (Schmidt, 2017) should serve
as but one demonstration of how misleading and potentially dangerous these
automatically generated informations can turn out to be if they go unchecked by human
reason. Yet another problem on the rise is the use of automated digital media campaigns
performed by software robots ­ social bots ­ that imitate human behavior in networks or
messenging systems, aiming at executing an influence on public opinion (Ehrenberg,

2012; Woolley, 2016; Ferrara, Varol, Davis, Menczer Flammini, 2016). Again, the
US-election in 2016 has served to draw attention to this matter in the recent past
(Kollanyi, Howard Woolley), as well as did the Brexit referendum in the UK
(Howard Kollanyi, 2016). The role of social bots as actual political actors has been
empirically investigated by Hegelich and Janetzko (2016) in a case study focused on
Ukraine. Hegelich (2016, p.2) reported that 1,000 fake accounts can currently be bought
for between $45 (simple Twitter accounts) and $150 (``aged'' Facebook-accounts),
while (a) very high-quality piece of software that can be used to control 10,000 Twitter
accounts costs around $500.
Follow the leader...on Twitter
While these developments might still be partly attributed to plain vanity or boost of
popularity and market value, others are more specifically aiming at openly interfering
with basic agreements and common practices in democratic social systems. Gu,
Kropotov, Leopando and Estialbo (2017) presented alarming tendencies in terms of
booming business industries trading with tools and services for explicit public opinion
manipulation. Services offered on shady marketplaces ­ identified to be mostly located
in China, Russia and the Middle East ­ reach from simple content promotion ­
consisting in the generation of clicks, likes, comments, buying of followers etc. ­ to
discreditation campaigns as well as manipulation of online votes and petitions. Gu et al.
quantify the pricing for discrediting a journalist with rather cheap $55,000 (p. 59) while
assisting to instigate a street protest sets one back for $200,000 (p. 60) and decisive
course of action in the context of election campaigns is being manufactured for a budget
of $400,000 (p. 61). However, all of the providers of these highly questionable services
are operating in a combination of illegal underground area, half-legit gray zone and
legitimate distribution channels, as demonstrated by Gu et al. (2017, 10). At the top of
the pyramid, an operator is orchestrating and distributing false information from out of
the anonymous underground while the service providers simply disseminate the
messages to basic consumers at the bottom of the pyramid that willingly amplify the
propaganda to the masses.

Obviously, this development signifies a crucial threat to democracy by severely
interfering with the decision-making process of voters, performed by automated
assimilators that enter human interaction in the shape of Trojan horses. Next to taking
over popular means of contemporary expression such as Twitter (Lokot Diakopoulos,
Shirky (2011)
Michael (2017) even considered the bots to be responsible for
hijacking the political debate alltogether. A tendency that could be observed in the
course of the so-called European refugee crisis during the last few years, where
mainstream media as well as politics were consistently urged to react on populist topics
generated in social media networks (Holmes Castaneda, 2016; Berry, Garcia-Blanco
Moore, 2016), with the latter seemingly taking over the Agenda-Setting function
generally attributed to the former, as attested earlier (Williams Delli Carpini, 2004).
In this context it is important to consider that the very nature of these social media
channels represents a simultaneous focalization of agenda-setting capacity in its
institutional character as well as covering the furthermore attested Two-Step-Flow of
information as a second crucial element in the process of opinion formation (Meraz,
2009; Russell Neuman, Guggenheim, Mo Jang Bae, 2014).
However, the alternative would have been to leave deliberatly disseminated populist
claims uncommented which would have been interpreted as yet another example of the
`Lügenpresse', like the German nationalist movement Pegida termed it (Dostal, 2015).
On the other hand, while contributions in social media networks are capable to generate
a considerable momentum without a doubt, a rather essential step further in gaining
significant public attention still seems to rely heavily on the issue being covered in
mainstream media channels (Newman, 2009; Newman, 2011). While any other Trump-
tweet hits the headlines with certainty ­ in a perfect synergy catering to the interests of
audience, publishers and Trump alike (Oates Moe, 2016; Borah, 2017) ­ the possible
impact of presidential blabla limited to an actual group of subscribed followers would
unarguably be less strong.
Nevertheless, considering the very nature of the medium, the content would very likely
be shared by other users, who ­ despite their actual intention of criticizing or ridiculing
the author ­ only contribute to creating attention for Trump as a political trademark,
similar to news outlets that host extended features on the life story of the latest terrorist

attacker (Weimann Winn, 1994; Nacos, 2016). While some countries' journalism
outlets roughly agree on a reporting style that would focus more on the victims than the
attacker in an effort to not grant the latter have his ­ potentially desired and sought after
­ fifteen minutes of fame and attention, a single post in a social media channel leaking
the identity of the propretrator is enough to start a wave of articles featuring interviews
with relatives, schoolmates and teachers. Therefore, what might work as a convenient
source of content to fit into the latest issue of a publication or broadcast might have the
potential to generate and exert a considerable amount of pressure, dictating the topics
that journalists somehow find themselves to be forced to deal with (Jewitt, 2009;
Beckett, 2016).
The rise of Twitter-excessive Trump in 2016 can be seen as a model for French ex-
banker Macron's and Austrian high school graduate/university drop-out Sebastian Kurz'
successful self-stylization as messiah-like leaders of movements bearing more
resemblance to social media hyped, self-promoted personality cults than to actual
political players with openly recognizable political programs (Aberer, 2011; Piontek,
2012; Beck, 2013; Eberl, Zeglovits Sickinger, 2017). Sharing similar slogans bare of
any content ­ such as Zeit für Neues (time for something new) or Penser printemps
(think spring) ­ during their election campaign (Zeit für Neues, 2017; Penser printemps,
2017), both politicians offered a vast space for voters to project their specific hopes and
expectations. Macron demonstrated his personal commitment to manifest his signature
call to rejuvination by boasting a bill of 26,000 for make-up artists as soon as three
months after his election (APA, 2017c). A wise investment, considering that the
youthfullness of politicians like Macron or Kurz is one of their main assets. However,
while Howard, Bradshaw, Kollanyi and Bolsolver (2017) have been demonstrating that
so-called junk news were less present on Twitter as compared to its US counterpart,
they recognized a considerable increase of such content for the second round that they
credit to the use of social media bots. However, content on Macron still tends to
dominate the traffic on Twitter between the two rounds (Howard et al., 2017, p. 5). One
thing the two elections do share is that in both countries political parties have been
attacked by hackers, leaking sensitive data to the media and the public (Fidler, 2016;
Wirth, 2016; Reynolds, 2017) which demonstrates that the war games have just begun.
A similarly martial approach to spin-doctoring has been demonstrated by former

Israelian Army Officer and globally active political campaigner Tal Silberstein, who
orchestrated the performance of Austria's Social Democratic Party from out of his `war
room' termed office. Ending in a desastrous scandal that followed his arrestation in Tel
Aviv on August 14, 2017 ­ due to charges of money laundry, among others ­,
Silberstein became the personification of `dirty campaigning' techniques used during
the election campaign, among them false flag Facebook accounts aiming at the
discreditation of political opponents. Needless to say that individuals attached to the
party/movement/personality cult of election-winning Sebastian Kurz have later on
found to be responsible for vice-versa activities on the web by producing content aiming
at insulting then chancelor Christian Kern. However, it gets obvious that democratic
decision making is more and more vulnerable to calculated misinformation and targeted
discreditation enabled by the technological possibilities and seemingly anonymous
space provided by the internet.
From Spiral of Silence to Nexus of Noise
The latest ­ and maybe most revealing ­ example of the populist, social media-oriented
modus operandi of Austria's new government has been provided by Karoline Edtstadler,
Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of the Interior and member of Kurz'
movement/party/personality cult. In perfect coherence to Colin Crouch (2004) and his
definition of the post-democratic condition, she justified a controversially discussed law
reform regarding sexual delinquents as corresponding to a perceived notion of natural
justice that she declared to deduce directly from respective postings on Facebook and
Twitter in the course of an interview on February 5, 2018 (Mayer, 2018).
It seems that the deduction is free from consideration of the unarguably limited ability
for any of the strongly emotional content generated on these social media channels to
produce balanced and objective views and arguments ­ next to presenting distorted
representations of a perceived public opinion generated by algorithms ­ as well as
acknowledgment of considerable criticism of opposing law experts. Similar to the
somehow misleading idea of direct democracy in form of a referendum or vote, the
conception of Edtstadler ­ stressing her obligation to push the agendas of anonymously
acting shot callers on selected communication platforms as a primary guideline for her

political mandate ­ unmistakenly demonstrates the post-democratic, populist conception
of the politician as a faithful servant to the dictate of an intentionally perceived ­ or
even self-adjusted ­ majority. Borrowing from the Crusaders, the convenient
justification Facebook lo vult ­ Mob willing ­ comes into mind. Interestingly enough,
only a few days later, the opportunist character of Kurz and his right-wing coalition
partner was further underlined by the demonstrated determination to simply ignore a
petition signed by more than 500.000 citizens that opted for a continuation of a general
smoking ban and their determination to push things through on a parliamentary level
before a referendum on the issue could be scheduled (Richter, 2018).
Either the displayed perception of Edstadler is simply revealing her illiteracy in terms of
competence to decode our contemporary media surrounding or a cold-blooded
instrumentalization of the random and distorting momentum that large parts of online
communication patterns can be attributed with. While the latter seems to be common
practice among political actors around the world, as demonstrated earlier, Edtstadler
provides evidence to assume the previous possibility by her statement. Positioning
postings on social media channels as directly analogues with the perception of the
population serves to present Noelle-Neumann's Spiral of Silence (Noelle-Neumann,
1978) with a reversed juxtapose of a presumed Nexus of Noise. This perspective is
supported by a recent study of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD, 2017) that
demonstrates that a loud minority actively orchestrated social media campaigns against
refugees during the elections in Germany. The research revealed that half of the likes
signalizing support for hate-comments can be traced back to only five percent of the
user accounts on the selected platforms. On top of it, the extremely active core of this
minority ­ twenty-five percent of these likes seem to be generated by only one percent
of the user profiles ­ deliberately aim at manipulating social media algorithms to
magnify its impact. Coordinated activity along agreed upon timelines or the use of
Hashtags are employed to boost the ranking of these contributions and therefore
wrongly suggest their relevance to a broader part of the public. A ``monumental
deception'' in the words of analyst Philip Kreißl (DPA, 2018), that is mainly generated
by supporters of right-wing movements, as the study further reveals. Muslims and
refugees list as the prime targets of these attacks in Austria, according to a report of the
counter-initiative #GegenHassimNetz (eho, 2018).

Therefore, Edtstadler's statement is drastically demonstrating the urgent need for
educational measurements that help to build a wide scale media literacy, hopefully
providing for the progression of the mistakenly presumed or self-declared digital natives
into a critical mass of digitally civilized entities. Equipped with a basic core competence
for realistically evaluating and critically questioning the actual relevance of our digital
surrounding, we would less likely fall into the trap of interpreting psychologically
triggered digital counterparts of the Tourette syndrom as significant events. However,
the rather disturbing example of Edtstadler shows that many of us are still at the stage of
running for their lives in order to escape the approaching train ­ if we draw a parallel to
the dawning of the Cinematic Age.
Big Data, Micro-targeting and Social Manipuledia
Unfortunately, such much needed discourse is buried under loads of Social Media
Management and E-Marketing courses in the curriculum of Communication Faculties.
Especially, considering the urgent need for a distant look and critical reflection of where
the implementation of a never-ending flood of mediated distractions in our daily life has
led us in regard to our condition as democratic citizens, political actors and
conscientious human beings in full command of their critical capacities ­ and where we
aim to draw the line between convenience and reason. However, with the dramatically
changing demographic composition of Zuckerberg's social media giant, that ­ in its
fourteenth year ­ suffers from a massive loss of young blood and strongly gains users
from over fifty-five years of age instead (Sweney, 2018), one is curious to see the
nature, impact and degree of centralization of the alternative media channels that the
economically more significant group of users is migrating to and its consequences for
democratic developments.
Latest disclosures by Christopher Wylie in the wave of the Cambridge Analytica
scandal put even more public and political pressure on the tumbling giant. Under the
umbrella of Cambridge Analytica, notorious for their involvement in the Brexit-
campaign 2016 (Cadwalladr, 2017), Aleksandr Kogan, Professor of Psychology at
Cambridge University, had created a Facebook-App named `Thisismydigitallife' for his
enterprise Global Science Research that had more than 270.000 downloaders doing a

personality test (Cadwalladr Graham-Harrison, 2018). However, by accepting the
Terms of Trade, they also agreed to the use of their data for `scientific purposes' as well
as authorization of scanning the profiles of their added friends on base of the critically
discussed `Third Party Consent'. The final heist consisted of personal data of about
ninety million Facebook accounts and got analyzed by a program the whistleblower
Wylie had developed. As Wylie put it: `We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of
people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their
inner demons' (Cadwalladr Graham-Harrison, 2018, para 3). The results had been
sold to strategically support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. SCL Group,
the mother company of Cambridge Analytics, had Breitbart-mastermind and Trump-
stablemate Steve Bannon as a board member from 2014 to 2016 and on top of it
million by Trump-financer Robert Mercer (Cadwalladr, 2018). Only a few
days after Wylie went public, a Channel 4 video surfaced (Revealed: Trump's election
consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians, 2018) that
has Cambridge Analytica-boss Alexander Nix boasting to potential clients in the course
of an undercover report. He claimed that the data analysis provided by the organization
had helped to critically influence more than two hundred elections all over the word ­
from India, to the Czech Republic and Argentinia to Nigeria. He further claimed
responsibility for the election of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta ­ a campaign that
was characterized by deliberate desinformation that targeted political opponents. Next
to Nix being suspended from his position, British authorities, in a first reaction, issued
orders to search the organization's headquarters in London (Elgot, 2018). At the same
time, the British Parliament, as well as the European Parliament and the US Senate,
have issued requests for Zuckerberg to justify himself in front of their institutions
(Reuters, 2018). Furthermore, investors filed lawsuits against Facebook, making the
company lose about
billion of market value within two days. With Zuckerberg
dressed up in suit and tie, humbly admitting his mistake in front of teethless US-
interrogators, some had hoped it would be up to the European Parliament to put him on
the hot seat. These expectations were grounded on consistent hints towards
governmental strategies to impose stronger regulations on Facebook in Europe ­ as
suggested by EU-commissioner Margarethe Vestager since quite a while (Rice, 2018).

After repeatedly addressed invitations of President Antonio Tajani (APA, 2018), the
hearing was streamed live on the internet ­ upon strong urge of Commission and
Parliament members. Although important questions regarding missing competitors,
unpaid taxes, or the ten thousand fact checkers he promised to install in 2016 happened
to be incorporated in the lenghty talks of his interrogators, Zuckerberg simply ignored
uncomfortable issues when it was his turn to respond (Salinas, 2018). One of these
matters regarded the notorious shadow profiles ­ accounts of individuals not registered
on Facebook that are generated by illegal screening of data stemming from internet use
or access to mobile phones and monetized by being sold on the market (Blue, 2013;
Garcia, 2017). Suddenly in a hurry to catch his ­ private ­ jet plane back to Los
Angeles, Zuckerberg half-heartedly agreed to provide missing answers in written form
and disappeared.
Despite all due criticism, Facebook is but the tip of the iceberg of a more general
problem ­ since Zuckerberg's money machine is only the most visible of all the actors
accumulating data on the web, next to insurance companies, banks, employers, schools
or the obvious intelligence services. Therefore, it would be too easy to urge private
companies to act responsible while leaving the heart of the matter untouched. On the
other hand, turning these regulative issues into a governmental concern is not free from
danger either ­ as demonstrated by China, where the slight nuisance of bought followers
and likes is being replaced with the blank horror of a social credit (Hatton, 2015).
However, the latest case of Amazon selling its face-scan software Rekognition to the
US-police ­ criticized as ``a recipe for authoritarianism and disaster'' by Malkiya Cyril
of the Black Lives Matter Movement (Wong, 2018) ­ demonstrates that the
technological means for full-scale surveillance of citizens are available elsewhere as
well. In the meanwhile, despite the boastful talk of Nix in the leaked video, Cambridge
Analytica as well as SCL closed down in May 2018, arguing to not be able to generate
new clients anymore due to their ruined reputation. Nevertheless, a newly founded
company named Emerdata lists Nix as a director ­ next to former SCL executives and
the daughters of billionaire Robert Mercer (Solon Laughland, 2018).
No matter who will be the operator of the next fashionable social networks ­ Vero
started an attempt earlier this year, offering the absence of advertising and algorithms ­,

as long as he is in control of the content the noble normative ideals of direct democracy
will be hard to obtain. The same is true for Italy's MoVimento 5 Stelle (5 Star
movement, the capitalized V stands for vaffanculo, Italian for `kiss my ass'), another
highly populist vehicle successfully employing the Troyan horse of direct participation.
While nomination of candidates and even the content of the movement's political
program are seemingly based on crowdsourcing and swarm intelligence compiled on the
party's website, a closer look at the ownership structure of the homepage reveals that it
is tied to Casaleggio Associati, a consulting company for internet strategies, belonging
to the son of the ex-comedian and movement's founder Beppo Grillo (Siefert, 2018).
Again, control over content, no matter if it appears on a seemingly public website or a
social network, is hardly ever compatible with direct democracy. But it is the perfect
condition for effective message control ­ which is also being employed by Kurz and his
movement that already saw several cases in which critical statements of their own
Ministers have been deleted from the Ministry's website (Oswald, 2018a; 2018b). It
should not be overlooked that such a strict attempt of message control can easily give
way to mind control ­ with an intimidated fellowship anticipating the course of action in
advance and fully abstaining from healthy mechanisms of constructive criticism.
As clearly demonstrated, one needs to be careful about actions that are originating on
social media platforms and are taking the lead in the formation of opinions that in turn are
justifying the directives of political players. It is becoming commonplace to see political
players making decisions based on responses posted on social media platforms, but again,
the danger lurks in the way that these responses are but a limited mirror only and do not
exactly represent the majority of citizens. The risk of the message being unclear is great,
and the argument stands whether the social media platforms are correct in the form an
argument is presented and how actions based on these postings may not be the right steps
to take. However, these developments ask for a reconsideration of the value given to the
aspect of media literacy in the context of school curriculums. Pushing for the
implementation of technology in class in order to prepare a next generation of skilled
operators that are well-versed in employing its full range of possibilities for professional
purposes might be a promising perspective for the neo-liberal/authoritarian governments

that are dominating the political discourse in Europe at this time. However, the
preparation for a responsible, reflective and critical attitude towards the incorporation of
this technology and its unfiltered outburst of manipulative disinformation does not list on
this agenda for good reasons. Hence, the need for the establishment of educational
structures that are capable of providing citizens with a sufficient amount of media literacy
can be considered as an essential requirement for the survival ­ or re-establishing ­ of
democracy in times of Fakebook and Netfix.

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Zeit für Neues (2017). Retrieved from https://www.sebastian-kurz.at/magazin/zeit-fuer-

Ayla Yildirim Martin A. M. Gansinger
The juxtaposition effect of online communication on social
environments, including gender discrimination and political
Abstract: Gender equality and political democracy are important factors that concern
almost every area of note in our modern era. Therefore, the notion that social media is to be
considered as the mouthpiece of freedom of speech has achieved a status of powerful
magnitude. It has also come to acceptance that the social media platforms have assumed the
role of expressing opinions that could be barred from the established media arenas, thus
making them ideal in terms of providing an outlet for the voice of the voiceless, so to speak.
Yet, governments are able to block these platforms on a national scale.
Key Words: Social Media, Gender, Political Opinion


Type of Edition
ISBN (Softcover)
File size
5.8 MB
Publication date
2018 (August)
Digital Media Online Communication Social Science Politics Risk internet

Title: Vortex of the Web. Potentials of the online environment
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163 pages