Fake news and the discursive construction of technology companies’ social power

Creech, Brian
Media, Culture & Society

In the research and commentary around ‘fake news’, there has been growing attention to the way the phrase evidences a growing field of technology industry critique, operating as a shorthand for understanding the nature of social media companies’ power over the public sphere. This article interrogates elite and popular discourses surrounding ‘fake news’, using the tools of critical discourse analysis to show how public commentary constitutes a discursive field that renders tech industry power intelligible by first defining the issue of fake news as a sociotechnical problem, then debating the infrastructural nature of platform companies’ social power. This article concludes that, as commentary moves beyond a focus on fake news and critiques of technology industries grow more complex, strains of elite discourse reveal productive constraints on tech power, articulating the conditions under which limits on that power are understood as legitimate.