chapter  1
16 Pages

The Fifth Estate: Democratic social accountability through the emerging network of networks


The rise of the press, radio, television and other mass media has enabled the development of an independent institution: the ‘Fourth Estate’. The Fourth Estate is central to pluralist democratic processes. The growing use of the Internet and related digital technologies is creating a space for networking individuals in ways that enable a new source of accountability in government, politics and other sectors. This chapter explains how this emerging ‘Fifth Estate’ is being established and why this could challenge the influence of other, more established bases of institutional authority. It discusses approaches to the governance of this new social and political phenomenon that could nurture the Fifth Estate’s potential for supporting the vitality of liberal democratic societies.