Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.)

The Digital Public

How algorithmic processes influence social discourse

  • 2018, 96 pp (PDF)
  • DOI 10.11586/2017049
  • Free of charge

When all age groups are considered, intermediaries driven by ADM processes, such as Google and Facebook, have a large but not a defining influence on how public opinion is formed, compared to editorially driven media such as television. These intermediaries judge the relevance of content based on the public's immediate reaction to a much greater degree than traditional media do. Machines are now selecting the news people see, which means media offerings are becoming increasingly personalized.

Use of these intermediaries for forming public opinion is leading to a structural change in public life. Key factors here are the algorithmic processes used as a basic formational tool and the leading role that user reactions play as input for these processes. Since they are the result of numerous psychological factors, these digitally assessed and, above all, impulsive public reactions are poorly suited to determining rele-vance in terms of traditional social values. These values, such as truth, diversity and social integration, have served in Germany until now as the basis for public opinion and public life as formed by editorial media.

Algorithms that sort content and personalize how it is assembled form the core of the complex, interdependent process underlying public communication and the formation of public opinion. That is why solutions must be found here first.