Post Post-Broadcast Democracy? News Exposure in the Age of Online Intermediaries


Online intermediaries such as social network sites or search engines are playing an increasingly central role in democracy by acting as mediators between information producers and citizens. Academic and public commentators have raised persistent concerns that algorithmic recommender systems would negatively affect the provision of political information by tailoring content to the predispositions and entertainment preferences of users. At the same time, recent research indicates that intermediaries foster exposure to news that people would not use as part of their regular media diets. This study investigates these unresolved questions by combining the web browsing histories and survey responses of more than 7,000 participants from six major democracies. The analysis shows that despite generally low levels of news use, using online intermediaries fosters exposure to non-political and political news across countries and personal characteristics. The findings have implications for scholarly and public debates on the challenges that high-choice digital media environments pose to democracy.

American Political Science Review