Bias in the Blogosphere

From Corante on Blogging Robert Corr has an interesting essay, “Bias in the Blogosphere”, trying to analyze bias in the weblog world.

Some have suggested that blogging is an altogether new medium, free of editors and owners and therefore free of bias. They are clearly wrong. There is a significant systemic bias in favour of powerful interests that can be convincingly explained by a modified propaganda model. As we have seen, there is no opportunity for a peasant farmer in Peru to start a blog. This new medium is the domain of white, middle-class American men, and severe structural barriers restrict access by other groups. Those that adhere to the dominant ideology of the warbloggers are rewarded with larger audiences and higher rankings in search engines. Those that challenge the mainstream must face substantial flak, through hostility and abuse online, and legal and other threats offline. Because blogs rely heavily on the mainstream media as a source of information, the blogosphere effectively acts as a sixth mass-media filter.

The significance of this analysis is that even in the absence of clear institutions that impart biased views and practices to the media, a system of filters can operate to reinforce powerful interests. This demonstrates that the Chomsky/Herman propaganda model is not conspiratorial, as its detractors have alleged. It also raises an important political issue. If the internet is not an inherently democratic technology, what can be done to rectify the situation? Clearly it is in the interests of society to ensure that all groups have a voice. The operation of the propaganda model in the blogosphere, where the influence of power and wealth is not immediately evident, shows that this will not naturally occur.