Do you remember when we thought social media platforms were a pathway to world peace, love and understanding?
Hey boy, we were wrong.
Sure, it’s great for a lot of things – keeping up with friends and family, sharing useful or entertaining information, etc., but we’ve never imagined the dark side: as a haven for people with destructive agendas and ulterior motives.
We never imagined that instead of social media being a force for enlightenment and wise decision-making, it would create and deepen political polarization leading to violence.
When we think of division, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is President Donald Trump’s constant use of Twitter and other social media platforms to energize his followers. From announcing his candidacy in June 2015 until four years into his presidency, Trump has issued more than 34,000 tweetsMany of them contain lies.
In June 2020, the The New York Times He monitored Trump’s tweets for a week and found that a third of them contained lies or misleading. On January 13th CNBC reported His findings are that Trump’s most popular tweets were the ones most likely to be false or inflammatory. CNBC said: “Of Trump’s 10 most popular tweets, four contained false allegations regarding the 2020 election results. Of the 100 most popular posts, 36 contained election-related lies.”
Over time, Twitter began hiding some of Trump’s tweets or adding labels that were disputed or misleading. Then, after he instigated the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, both Twitter and Facebook announced that Trump’s accounts had been suspended from their platforms. Other companies have taken similar steps. Apple and Google have removed Parler’s alternative social system from their app stores, and Amazon has stopped hosting the service.
If the Democrats believed Facebook was on their side a few years ago, that has begun to change with the 2016 election and the revelation that the Russians may have tipped the scales against them. Enticing posts Designed to sow discord. Since then, the left has increasingly criticized Facebook as a “right-wing echo chamber” that has given Trump an advantage.
Facebook denies it is playing a political favorite. In September, a Facebook executive said Politico There is a reason the Conservative pages are pushing for such a loud interaction: “Right-wing populism is always more attractive” because it speaks of an “incredibly powerful primitive emotion” by touching on topics like “the nation, protection, the other, anger, fear.”
in October, BBC Left / right use of Facebook is reported and found that right-leaning commenters seem to have an advantage: “Data from CrowdTangle, a publicly owned Facebook insight tool, collects the most popular posts for every day on Facebook. On any given day, commenters dominate. Right-leaning people like Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro are on the top ten most popular, along with Fox News and President Trump posts.
Additionally, the BBC reported that Trump’s Facebook page received 10 times more visits than the Biden page.
Despite Democrats’ growing dissatisfaction with Facebook, and even though Trump has been using Twitter to his advantage throughout his presidency, Republicans still believe social media companies are biased against them. In August 2020, Pew Research Center Published poll results found that 69% of Republicans and Republican-minded people believe social media favors Democrats, while only 25% of Democrats feel that way.
Growing pressure for more accountability
Of course, Trump’s opponents were delighted when social media muzzled Trump in the wake of the January 6 riots. But in the wake of those measures, there appears to be broad agreement everywhere along the political spectrum that social media has A lot of power. There is broad agreement that regulation is healthy.
But what could that look like?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long pushed back against attempts to curate his platform on the grounds that it is not a conventional media model because it does not create content – it just provides a niche for the content.
It’s also a job that is unlike traditional media in other ways.
Traditional news viewers and readers pick and choose what content they want to watch. But with social media, users “have almost no control over the content they see.” Debian Ghosh |, Associate Director of the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “Instead, the platforms use complex algorithms to serve content that they believe will keep users browsing, often exposing them to more extremist posts that they might not have searched for on their own.”
For more than two decades, social media platforms have enjoyed legal liability for third-party content under Article 230 of the Communications Etiquette Act 1996. But those days of legal protection may be numbered. On December 9, 2020, the US government launched a groundbreaking antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, calling for its dissolution.
In other words, the wheels are already moving, and the Biden administration will almost certainly look for ways to better protect the public from harmful social media content.
Should Section 230 be abolished?
While Section 230 is infuriating in every direction, there is also broad agreement that it has allowed new companies to take shape and flourish. And while you might praise the absence of political rhetoric that you find offensive, removing Article 230 “will also apply to your political speech, along with pictures of your children that you want to share with your family,” says David Green, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
He told CBS News, “It’s part of modern Internet architecture. Everything you do on the Internet depends on it.”
But Bradley Tusk, a lawyer and founder of Tusk Ventures, the venture capital and political strategy firm, says the events of January 6 were the “death knell” of Section 230.
“When our product becomes so dangerous that it puts someone’s health at risk, it is the government’s responsibility to step in and do something about it,” he told the site. One zero. “If you were to support the abolition of Section 230, that would be your view.”
Ghosh, of the Kennedy School of Government, suggests that Congress may keep Section 230 in place but require platforms to meet certain standards for transparency and data protection. (Bipartisan legislation It was actually introduced to do so).
Others think that it is important for social media platforms to self-regulate. Three academic authors in Harvard Business Review He argues that self-regulation was successful in many pre-internet industries: film, broadcast, video games, and television advertising.
“Given the increased likelihood of government action, the goal of self-regulation should be to avoid the tragedy of the commons, where a lack of trust destroys the environment that has allowed digital platforms to thrive,” they wrote.
It is difficult to predict what will happen. One thing looks for sure, though: Social media may be on its way to some dramatic changes.