I've found several definitions that seem to be incompatible

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fifth+estate

A class or group in society other than the nobility, the clergy, the middle class, and the press.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate

The Fifth Estate is most strongly associated with bloggers, journalists, and media outlets > that operate outside of the mainstream media


“Fifth Estate” explains our collective ability to share information, to create > communities, and to organize social movements through online networks

Does it refer anyone whose job it is to use the internet to spread news?

  • It's going to be really hard to say. Can you show us the original instance that inspires the question? The concepts of the 4th estate is a moderately settled one building on the three estates (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estates_of_the_realm)
    – virmaior
    Feb 24, 2014 at 5:02
  • You really need to go back the Ancien Régime prior to the French revolution: there were three estates, the nobles, the clergy and the commoners. The fourth estate is a term coined by Edmund Burke to refer to the press. Today, it means press and media. Fifth estate is from the sixties: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2019 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


All of your sources are actually saying basically the same thing.

The Estates are areas of power in society. Originally and for a very long time, political power and religious power dominated the lives of every person in the world. The Third Estate, the middle class came about a few hundred years ago. Before that, it was just government and the church who held power, but now regular people mattered because they could act collectively with power independent of government or church.

The Fourth Estate came about a bit later with the development of the printing press. "The press" was a term used for people who were journalists and who sought to find things out and print them for others' benefit. With the advent of mass media, "the press" has arguably become as much of an institution as religion or politics. It certainly has the power to sway the course of events, and thus is considered yet another Estate.

Anyone who participates in society from a fringe or "outsider" position is the Fifth Estate. This role in society has mushroomed since the inception of the internet as all of us are now able to share information more or less freely and with relative ease. The Fifth Estate refers to anyone who attempts to use the power of instant, widespread communication to influence society.

Notable examples of this type are bloggers, watchdogs, activists, or other individuals or small groups who track and comment on the first four estates: government, religion, business, media.

  • 1
    Areas of power? I think not. Social and/or economic groups are more like it. The Fourth Estate is a term for the press coined by Edmund Burke in 1787. The Third Estate were the commoners.
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2019 at 20:38

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