Net Neutrality| The Role of the Networked Public Sphere in the U.S. Net Neutrality Policy Debate

Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Dalia Othman, Yochai Benkler


This article examines the public debate over net neutrality in the United States in 2014. We compiled, mapped, and analyzed more than 15,600 stories published on net neutrality, augmented by data from Twitter, Bitly, and Google Trends. Using a mixed-methods approach that combines link analysis with qualitative content analysis, we describe the evolution of the debate over time and assess the role, reach, and influence of different media sources and advocacy groups. By three different measures, we find that the pro-net neutrality forces decisively won the online public debate and translated this into a successful social mobilization effort. We conclude that a diverse set of actors working in conjunction through the networked public sphere played a pivotal role in turning around the Federal Communications Commission policy on net neutrality.


political discourse, social mobilization, networked public sphere, net neutrality

Full Text: