"Nobody tells us what to write about": the disinformation media ecosystem and its consumers in the Czech Republic
journal contributionposted on 17.12.2020, 12:24 authored by Vaclav StetkaVaclav Stetka, Jaromir Mazak, Lenka Vochocova
The rise of the digital platforms has provided an opportunity for an unprecedented expansion of the public sphere; however, the recent proliferation of online disinformation, automated propaganda as well as hate speech has substantially hampered their potential to become an instrument for more egalitarian and participatory communication in a democratic society. In many countries, the ascent of right-wing populism in recent years has been associated with the establishing of an alternative information environment that includes a variety of fringe news websites that frequently engage in spreading rumours, hoaxes and conspiracy theories. Attempting to fill the gap in the scholarship that predominantly tends to focus on analysing this phenomenon within the U.S. and Western European political and media context, this article aims to map the disinformation ecosystem and its audiences in the Czech Republic, a country where the online disinformation scene has been particularly active in recent years. Following an outline of the evolution of the Czech media system over the course of the last three decades, including the process of oligarchization of media ownership and its impact on media autonomy and trust, this study utilizes data from the 2018-2020 Digital News Report surveys to provide empirical insights into the characteristics of the consumers of the most prominent disinformation news websites in the Czech Republic, particularly the extent to which these audiences differ from consumers of quality media in terms of their political selfidentification, as well as in terms of the level of trust to media. In conclusions, the paper evaluates the challenges these new patterns of (dis)information consumption pose for the post-transition public sphere in the Czech Republic, especially in context of the processes of democratic deconsolidation and the rise of illiberalism.
Czech Science Foundation (GAČR), Standard Grant Nr 17-17085S
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Communication and Media