Mediating the Black Pete discussion on Facebook: Slacktivism, flaming wars, and deliberation

Karin van Es, Daniela van Geenen, Thomas Boeschoten


In this paper we counter the idea that Facebook is a unified medium and stress the need to analyze the distinct qualities of its pages. We do so by exploring the Black Pete discussion on Facebook that ignited when United Nations investigator Verene Shepherd held a plea for the Dutch government to abolish the Saint Nicholas tradition, which features a black-face character, Black Pete. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are employed to interrogate how Facebook mediates this discussion in terms of divergent formatted spaces of participation. Reflecting on our findings against the notions of deliberation, slacktivism and flaming wars, we consider the particular features and potentials of different types of mediation.

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