Social news websites are online newspapers edited by their readers. They filter previously published material according to the public opinion of users, and thereby present a compilation of media output that supposedly represents public opinion better, and in a more egalitarian way, than the contents of any single media organ. (Example: Digg, Reddit or Newsvine.)
Social news sites are able to take advantage of the professional resources of established, mainstream media, and to combine this with alternative, citizen media (non-professional blogs etc.), in order to cover the news from many points of view, thereby revealing the bias or distortion of individual media organs.
My study proposes to give a comprehensive account of social news sites, and their role in democracy. More precisely: it identifies three ideal types of democracy (liberal individualist, communitarian-republican, and deliberative), and evaluates the performance of social news sites using normative standards derived from the three conceptual democracy models.
Social news sites are important: they hold the promise of becoming a player in the public sphere that can provide citizens with normatively better media output – and what “better” means depends on your choice of definition for democracy. My research sets out to decide, upon empirical evidence, whether this promise is actualized or not.