"Today I would like to explain why I believe it would not be an exaggeration to argue that a new form of social accountability is emerging in what I am calling the ‘Fifth Estate’. It is enabled by the growing use of the Internet and related information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the personal computer and World Wide Web. Essentially, the Internet is enabling people to network with other individuals and with a vast range of information, services and technical resources. This is being achieved in ways that can support greater accountability not only in government and politics, but also in other sectors. I will argue that this could be as important – if not more so – to the 21st century as the Fourth Estate has been since the 18th".
I have a question about terminology. Dutton uses the same term "estate" referring to two different elements.
In Italy we use two different terms: stato referring to social classes and potere referring to power/authority.
In the French revolution, the terzo (third) stato, the Commons, is opposed to "clergy" and "nobility". As the "middle class" presented itself like the terzo stato, the quarto (fourth) stato has been introduced to refer to the proletariat. Remind Pellizza da Volpedo's picture just titled "Quarto stato".
Quarto potere is the Italian title of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane".
quarto (fourth) potere refers to the theory of the division of power in a democratic state: legislative, executive and judicial. The "fourth" is the one of the media that can exercise a control on the other tree powers.
With this meaning, I agree: the new forms of accessing and sharing information, of producing and sharing digital contents, of networking with other people can be considered as a fifth power.