As civilization and the times progress, the composition of society becomes more and more complex, and the update of network technology allows the flow of information to become more and more rapid. In this context, the renewal and transformation of culture is also increasingly accelerated. The development of different kinds of cultures of various ethnic groups and regions are facing different opportunities and challenges. The revolution in communication technology based on the Internet and big data has given rise to the informatization of society and the popularization of public opinion. The technological revolution has brought about a series of changes that have made people’s access to information more diverse, effective and precise. However, this has also led to increased cultural antagonism and tension. This article will examine the dangers of a lack of diversity from the perspectives of free speech, group diversity, and the high concentration of the media industry.
Freedom of Speech
In an open discussion space on the Internet that lacks a culture of diversity, freedom of speech has become a false proposition. Freedom of speech should be a right to truth, but freedom of speech does not have the conditions for truth. The idea is that people do not really enjoy the diversity of opinion that freedom of speech allows in an environment where speech and its freedom are legally available, but where people only repeat the same sound over and over again. This idea can be elaborated by two theories. First, the myth theory, where Barthes likens cultural phenomena in society to legends and myths (Gillespie, 2018). The commonality between the two is that both are a kind of unexamined truth and verified truth of the idea, and in the long run it becomes a social default speech. The classic case is the symbol of luxury, which is not only a high class commodity that consumers are fascinated by, but also a statement of nobility and status.
Secondly, Noelle Neumann mentioned the theory of Spiral of Silence, that if a person feels that his opinion is a minority, he will tend not to express it. The Internet has swept the world as a new mass communication platform and is rapidly becoming the most dominant communication medium of our time. Compared to traditional media, this theory has not been cut down in the online media environment, but rather exists in another unique way. Facebook and Reddit encourage users to form communities and groups, for example, in the emergence of a virtual community culture, which is based on identity as the basis for growing interaction (Castells, 2002). If you want users to stay active, then encouraging them to form social circles is a good way to do so. This is not only common, but even acceptable, and can be financially beneficial to the platform. This inadvertently makes it difficult for the platform to accommodate phenomena that go against the majority speech.
Finally, the Chinese media environment serves as a typical example of the disparity, and freedom of expression on Chinese Internet platforms has been fraught with controversy. Government control has hindered the development of cultural diversity on the Internet in China. However, most capitalist countries also continue to face the paradox that speech is difficult to control (Emmons, 2001). While some Western media outlets demand that they be able to speak freely by protecting freedom of expression, they also suppress speech that is inconsistent with their values. This environment is theoretically free, but diversity of thought is actually missing.
The negative impact of the lack of diversity on the Internet is also the imbalance and instability of the market ecosystem. New media has changed the path of information circulation and reconstructed the structure of information dissemination. Social media, self-media and traditional mainstream media have migrated in user scale, socialization, sharing and information dissemination follow each other, media attributes have accelerated generalization, and audience experience tends to be pan-objectified. However, the new media industry ecosystem lacks sufficient stability and harmony. From an economic point of view, Facebook and Google, which occupy a large share of the market, have reduced the living space of the rest of the media market. Some media have insufficient ability to adapt and self-regulate in the new situation. It is difficult to find their own coordinates for survival and development in the new environment, and the capacity of market resources is limited (Gillespie, 2018). Under the pressure of survival, everyone tries hard to get a share in the market.
In this abnormal and fierce competitive environment, it makes the social benefits and social responsibility of the media neglected in favor of over-emphasis on economic benefits and commercial profits. Gradually, only eye-catching clickbait and gossip and lace news that meet people’s instinctive vulgar preferences are left in the market of ideas. These news can bring instant pleasure to both information receivers and buyers, and the public does not need to consume too much time and brain power to process and summarize the information. This may seem to be beneficial to the relationship between the platform, the consumer and the marketplace. However, with the amplifying effect of the feedback function of social media platforms, over time, the Internet, a marketplace of ideas with great freedom of speech, will be overrun with piles of rumors, negative sentiments, conspiracy theories, clickbait, etc. At the same time, powerful algorithms and feedback loops greatly increase the buyer’s “consumer loyalty” to certain types of self-publishing, so that the public as buyers and receivers of information are confined to the filter bubble in a corner of this free market (Geschke et al., 2019).
Australian media market
The lack of diversity in the Australian market media has an impact on digital right and public interest. Under the impact of the tide of informatization and networking, all media in Australia are facing transformation, and embracing new media has become a common choice for all media. Whether it is a large media group or a small media enterprise, integrating traditional media and new media, using new media to enhance media communication capabilities and exploring new profit models have become their common choices. Although traditional media have retired from the media stage, their influence on the public is still there. The Australian media industry continues to be criticized for its lack of employee diversity. The report Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories? on Australian television news and current affairs coverage says that 76 percent of presenters, commentators and journalists who appear on Australian television screens in terms of appearances are white Europeans from an Anglo-Celtic background.
Although people from Aboriginal or non-European backgrounds make up about a quarter of Australia’s population, people from these backgrounds make up only 6 percent of the total number of appearances (Cook-Lynn, 1993). This can lead to a loss of credibility between the media and the public, even to the detriment of the public interest, and can hinder the development of democracy in Australia. As a multicultural nation, it is all the more important that the voices of different groups are heard. While emphasizing equal social opportunities and treatment for all races and upholding the right to cultural heritage of all races, we should also promote an equal and harmonious relationship between races and individuals with mutual respect and dignity. We should promote mutual recognition, mutual appreciation, and mutual assistance among diverse cultures, so as to realize the vision of harmonious coexistence and common development of all races.
In general, redefining the boundaries of freedom of expression on the Internet, promoting the development of a healthy market ecosystem and broadening the tolerance of cultural diversity are things that public authorities around the world need to consider. In the age of the Internet, geographic barriers can no longer prevent people from accessing information and engaging in debate. However, after crossing the physical and national walls, how to make the market competition of ideas return to the true nature of freedom is a question that everyone needs to consider. What is needed is not only the redefinition of the boundaries between public and private rights, but also the further real integration of global economy, culture and ideas.
Castells, M. (2002). The Culture of the Internet. The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society, 36–63. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199255771.003.0003
Cook-Lynn, E. (1993). Who Gets to Tell the Stories? Wicazo Sa Review, 9(1), 60. https://doi.org/10.2307/1409263
Emmons, S. (2001). Freedom of speech in China: a possibility or a prohibition? Loyola of Los Angeles International & Comparative Law Review, 23(2), 249–.
Gillespie, T. (2018). Governance by and through Platforms. In The SAGE handbook of social media (pp. 24–278). SAGE Publications.
Geschke, D., Lorenz, J., & Holtz, P. (2019). The triple‐filter bubble: Using agent‐based modelling to test a meta‐theoretical framework for the emergence of filter bubbles and echo chambers. British Journal of Social Psychology, 58(1), 129–149. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12286