Topic 4

Social Media Giants-How they deal with ethical issues online.

According to Reference, ethical issues bring morality and principles into conflict and are more subjective and open to opinions and interpretation. Social media brings to light numerous ethical issues for example the issue of anonymity and privacy, freedom of speech and fake news. Social media giants (Facebook, Twitter) are slowly being forced to deal with these issues and held liable, rightly or wrongly.

(S. Raeburn, Free Speech vs Abuse,2013)

Crowd mentality or as said by Shirky “Organising without organisations” is where powerful social movements emerge because the decentralised internet empowers their participation. This, on social media can also cause one post of hate to go widespread and turn into a torrent of abuse. Anonymity can be a crucial element of why people feel they can commit an offence-they are detached from the consequence. Black Mirror showcases this perfectly; it shows how people are willing to participate in online hate even when a life is in danger- and how it can backfire. A brilliant watch.

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(S. Raeburn, Free Speech vs Abuse,2013)

Specifically, the line that separates freedom of speech from online abuse is blurry. Social media gives “a megaphone to people who enjoy shouting, positively and negatively” (Guardian,2014).  These ‘shouts’ can often be attacks on individuals and have damaging effects. Where do we draw the line that separates the harmless from the criminal? Now, clear guidelines have been set from the director of public prosecutions:

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Canva, E.Back,2017

Once the post has been classed as criminal, the real problem lies with it getting removed. Businesses such as Twitter and Facebook are reluctant to edit what appears on their site and to reveal the identities behind anonymous accounts. Specifically Twitter, they want to remain a platform for communication rather than be seen as a publisher and face even more liability for what appears on their site (Guardian, 2014).

new-piktochart_20927322_f4a20556d20dd1eeed0059ef6b3a817fd927b006
Piktochart, E.Back, 2017

(G.Greenwald, TED, 2014)

Revenues and profit aside, when lives are in danger, and criminal activity is taking place in a supposedly ‘safe’ environment social giants such as Facebook and Twitter must increase the speed in which posts are deleted and cooperate with investigations of individuals. If hate crime receives no punishment we can only see it increase in the future. If a threat was made online with intent to carry through, it should be prevented early. Although there is no clear solution, as fines can’t motivate businesses who can’t afford to adapt, it could be suggested that Governments subsidise businesses to aid them in the challenge of monitoring the internet, as it is a public benefit after all.

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Background information on Black Mirror:

A computer hacker ran an online assassination poll through twitter using a hashtag, where the public could anonymously vote for the most hated person. Each day, whoever was at the top of the poll was murdered. This could be anyone from someone who has appeared in the news to a politician or famous figure. Even as people realised the hashtag worked, they carried on voting. The hacker logged every user who voted, anonymous or not, and in the end they all suffered their own consequence of dying the same way. It was chilling, but put across fantastically that we can’t hide from our actions and the power of anonymity and mob mentality can put potential in anybody to be that person who abuses online. It summarises and challenges this posts idea wonderfully and I recommend anybody who is interested to give it a watch.

 

Sources:

Black Mirror, http://www.Netflix.com

E.Back, Canva,2017

E.Back, Piktochart,2017

G.Greenwald, TED, 2014 Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_mattersa

J.Ronson,  How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life,2014 Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-

L.Kelion, UK Jumps Up Internet Scoreboard as Digital Divide Grows, 2013 Available at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24426739

M.Butcher, Unless online giants stop the abuse of free speech, democracy and innovation gets threatened, 2017 Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/20/online-giants-must-bolster-democracy-against-its-abuse-or-watch-innovation-die/

Reference, Available at: https://www.reference.com/world-view/ethical-issue-f1d5bd587b50cdbf

Shirky, 2015, How The Wisdom of The Crowd Can Turn Into Social Media Mob Rule, http://theconversation.com/how-the-wisdom-of-the-crowd-can-turn-into-social-media-mob-rule-43376

S. Raeburn, Free Speech vs Abuse,2013, Available at: http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/08/23/free-speech-v-abuse-new-online-battleground

The Guardian, Twitter Abuse, 2014 Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/24/twitter-abuse-abusive-tweets-editorial?CMP=twt_gu

Z.Kleinman, The Curious Case of Leah Palmer, 2015 Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31710738

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9 thoughts on “Social Media Giants-How they deal with ethical issues online.”

  1. Hi Emily!

    Thanks so much for this informative and creative post, I really enjoyed reading it. I am interested that you brought up the issue of fake news at the beginning. This was a major problem during the US Presidential Election last year and I was wondering if you think if enough is being done to tackle the problem? Facebook have recently stated that they are making efforts to filter out ‘fake news’ but in this article (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/14/facebook-twitter-gchq-combat-fake-news), many experts have said it’s not good enough and they could even face action from the EU. I personally think it’s unfair to punish facebook for the problem but definitely there needs to be something more serious done because I’m sure there were voters who voted from wrong information (e.g one article stating the Pope endorsed Trump).

    (Word Count: 141)

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I am glad you found it informative and interesting to read. Yes, I was only able to touch on the idea of fake news due to the word count restrictions so thank you for asking me about it! I believe that there is definitely more that can be done about dealing with fake news, it can be a serious problem like you pointed out the US election- I’m sure you’re right in saying that many people voted based on wrong information! Just a thought to consider, from the Brexit referendum I became alarmingly aware of how many people use twitter as a platform to showcase their opinions (and mainly rant!) about the different arguments. However, just searching ‘Brexit’ into twitter brought up thousands of tweets where a lot of what they were saying was incorrect or misunderstood, I can’t help but think this is just as bad as fake news but we are the culprits! I would love to know your views on how this could be tackled without taking away freedom of speech.
      Emily

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  2. Hi Emily,

    The title of your post really drew me in; it captures the power and influence of leading social media platforms which assumes a responsibility when it comes to protecting their users. This means that Facebook or Twitter often come under fire following a malicious incident connected to social media such as the death of Jo Cox, as discussed on my blog. Your post helped me to think through the key issues including anonymity, ‘publisher’ status and the advantages and disadvantages of monitoring site content. The new ‘live’ functions on social media allow for the broadcasting of criminal content; earlier this week a father filmed himself killing his baby daughter on Facebook Live (news article) . The footage was not taken down until 24 hours later. How do you think horrific content of this kind could be removed sooner or prevented in future, and is this Facebook’s responsibility to fix?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Catherine
    (158)

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