Public Opinion Expression in Online Environments
Online media off er Internet users an increasing amount of information about what others think, how they respond to media content, and what they believe to be relevant to people in their personal environment. It is safe to say that all these perceptions, complementing traditional sources, probably shape how online users assess the climate of opinion. At the same time, users themselves have more opportunities than ever before to express their own point of view, which in turn may shape how their readers and viewers perceive the climate of opinion. But beyond its rapid growth in volume, these online environments also display particular characteristics that distinguish them from communication in the offl ine world: Asynchronous interaction, the anonymity of others and the possibility to completely hide one’s own identity are only three of these qualities which might infl uence individual behavior (namely the willingness to express an opinion) in a way that questions basic assumptions of the spiral of silence theory (SoST).