Racial Formation, Inequality and the Political Economy of Web Traffic
Few studies attempt to demonstrate whether and how systemic racial inequality might form on the web. I use racial formation theory to conceptualize how race is represented, and systematically reproduced on the web, and how both may reveal forms of racial inequality. Using an original dataset and network graph, I document the architecture of web trafﬁc, and the actual trafﬁc patterns among and between race-based websites. Results demonstrate that web producers create hyperlink networks that steer audiences to websites without respect to racial or nonracial content. However, user navigation reﬂects a racially segregated trafﬁc pattern; users navigate to racialized versus nonracialized websites (and vice versa) more than what would be expected by chance. These results, along with disparities in website trafﬁc rankings, provide evidence of, and demonstrates how a racebased hierarchy might systematically emerge on the web in ways that exemplify disparate forms of value, inﬂuence and power that exist within the web environment.