Switching off the news: What a discourse analysis of digital platforms’ response to Australia’s News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code reveals about ideology and power
On 17 February 2021, Facebook restricted the posting and sharing of news in Australia. After many months of silence, this was Facebook’s final tactic in its campaign to avoid being regulated under Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code. The Code is aimed at addressing the power imbalance between digital platforms and news publishers, particularly Google and Facebook, which are the subjects of this thesis. Following a Foucauldian framework, this thesis employs a discourse analysis of platforms’ responses to The Code, to examine what this reveals about platform power and ideology, and how these contributed to a social, economic, and technological landscape where platforms were able to switch off the news. The academic literature on platform discourse is skewed towards user-generated content published on platforms, and, in contrast, this thesis contributes to the understanding of discourse produced by platforms themselves. This thesis concludes that platforms use their discursive power to reinforce their dominant ideology of neoliberalism via the attention economy, and push towards platform sovereignty. In particular, platforms interpellate users as subjects through the graphical user interface and the unprecedented access this provides, to facilitate maximum data production, extraction, and monetisation of user attention. Google and Facebook use their dominant ideological position and censorial power to issue threats to governments who may be considering future regulation. It is hoped this thesis, by revealing platforms’ discursive strategies, will assist governments globally in designing effective legislation and responses, in order to curb platform power. This thesis also suggests future areas of research, including broadening the scope of analysis of platform responses to regulation, and conducting a comparison between the Australian case study and others of platforms’ and governments’ role in platform regulation.