Philip M. Napoli
has been thinking about algorithmic news and social media feed curation for quite some time, as he acknowledges in his new book, Social Media and the Public Interest: Media Regulation in the Disinformation Age
(Columbia University Press, 2019). Initially this topic was not as pressing as it now seems to be, but Napoli has been exploring this issue and and trying to figure out how it might work in terms of regulation – self, governmental, or otherwise – for a while. Social Media and the Public Interest
approaches this complex and multi-layered issue from a host of perspectives, leading the reader into the broader discussion through a history of social media, but that history itself is positioned within a brief but important history of the internet and the world wide web. At the same time, the book covers a lot of important ground in thinking about the First Amendment, how journalism operates in the age of social media and an otherwise fluid and changing environment for traditional media. Napoli gets at questions that often lurk at the back of our considerations of social media, not only about what we experience in our use of these platforms, but also how we may, unconsciously, consume the information and news that is presented to us through these “not quite journalistic” entities. This is a fascinating book that opens up a lot of penetrating questions about our social media environment, how we think about journalism, what the role of regulation might be in terms of both technology and media, and how all these threads intersect within politics. This book will be of interest to a wide array of readers from a host of backgrounds, and, of course, to anyone who has an interest in understanding the media environment in which we all live.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She co-edited the award-winning
Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).