The Clickwrap: A Political Economic Mechanism for Manufacturing Consent on Social Media

Social Media + Society, July-September 2018, pp. 1-14.

Posted: 27 Apr 2018 Last revised: 17 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jonathan A. Obar

Jonathan A. Obar

York University; Quello Center - Michigan State University

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

University of Connecticut

Date Written: April 9, 2018

Abstract

The clickwrap is a digital prompt that facilitates consent processes by affording users the opportunity to quickly accept or reject digital media policies. A qualitative survey analysis was conducted (N=513), assessing user interactions with the consent materials of a fictitious social media service, NameDrop. Findings suggest that clickwraps serve a political economic function by facilitating the circumvention of consent materials. Herman and Chomsky’s notion of the “buying mood” guides the analysis to analogize how social media maintain flow to monetized sections of services, while diverting attention from policies that might encourage dissent. Clickwraps accomplish this through an agenda-setting function whereby prompts encouraging circumvention are made more prominent than policy links. Results emphasize that clickwraps discourage engagement with privacy and reputation protections by suggesting that consent materials are unimportant, contributing to the normalization of this circumvention. The assertion that clickwraps serve a political economic function suggests that capitalist methods of production are successfully being integrated into social media services, and have the ability to manufacture consent.

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Keywords: Clickwrap, Political Economy, Consent, Privacy Policy, Social Media, Social Network, Social Network Service, Privacy, Terms of Service, Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Walter Lippmann

Suggested Citation

Obar, Jonathan A. and Oeldorf-Hirsch, Anne, The Clickwrap: A Political Economic Mechanism for Manufacturing Consent on Social Media (April 9, 2018). Social Media + Society, July-September 2018, pp. 1-14.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3159299

Jonathan A. Obar (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

Quello Center - Michigan State University ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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