Social media has become one the medium where individuals have found a voice, a place that has allowed social change and has helped to shape ideologies. Wikipedia defines social media as an interactive technology that facilitates the creation and sharing of content, ideas, interest and expressions through a community/network (Wikipedia, n.d.). The balance small business says that social media are websites that allow “people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real-time (Hudson, 2019)” So social media are spaces that will enable users to interact within a community by sharing ideas, interests, opinions, etc. Although social media has been changing throughout time, it is not merely a platform to post ‘selfies’ anymore. It has become a tool for expressions and social change. Social media is a place where all users have the same freedom to share their ideas, whether positive or negatives, which has led to existent issues such as hatred, racism, gender hate, and so on; also, politic issues, ‘attack’ against corporations and conspiracy theories. It has led institutions to take further action and force censorship, banning or discrediting others.
Social media has become a platform that brings a lot of attention from the government, corporations and powerful individuals, which all agree to censor/ban users ‘that are too loud,’ unfortunately, censorship it is not a public concern, we as users, social media becomes a space of free speech and a space that all users have the right to use to communicate their ideas, without the fear of censorship, despite hate speech, or opinions that are against others. An example that occurred on May 2, the leftist Louis Farrakhan and right-wing commentators Alex Jones, Mio Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, and Paul Joseph were banned from Facebook (Mercier, 2019), Facebook released a statement arguing that they will ban any individual or organization that promotes or engages in violence and hate, despite the ideology, then proceed to claim that the creators dangerous (Mercier, 2019). Although, Paul Joseph claims on his twitter that he never broke the rules and was never given a reason for the banning.
As users, we must think about how important and disturbing it is that social media has the power to shut users that they consider toxic, who has the power to decide what is hate or not? Is it done equally? Why some people get banned whereas others are not? As David French mention on his article Social-Media Censorship is the Product of culture and Commerce, “[a] right-wing speaker says something outrageous and faces consequences, while multiple left-wing speakers seem to spew venoms with impunity, including at people (like, say, conservative Christians) who are also ostensibly protected by various social-media anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies (French, 2019),” which argues that not all the censorship is done fairly, social media companies, decide what is toxic and what is not, but it is not arbitrary, another example happened in YouTube, when the famous YouTuber Logan Paul uploads a video where he records the body of a man in the Aokigahara forest in Japan, where is the destination for people that have decided to end their life. When Logan Paul spotted him, he started mocking him; this was available on YouTube to all the audience. YouTube did not remove the video; it was due to social pressure that Logan Paul decided to take down the video and apologized. Users pressured and criticized the platform because of this action, as @TrustedFlagger mentions on his twitter actions were taken after it had 6 million views, and YouTube did nothing (BBC, 2018).
Various institutions are seeking for social media companies to take action over offensive content, according to a survey made from FactTank, 66% of U.S adults say that social media should bear the responsibility to remove any offensive content, but 31% opine that these companies should determine what offensive content needs to be removed although there is no agreement on what is offensive or extremist, as it is merely cultural interpretation, and it depends on how the user is going to interpret the message. Although the government is seeking to regulate and control how users act in social media, regulating what people do, the Canadian government is taking further action to regulate actions that can affect the coming elections in 2019, the Honourable Karina Gouls, Minister of Democratic Institutions, has released a declaration that will guide social media platforms so they can ensure integrity, transparency and authenticity, this actions are done to increase the transparency on advertising and avoid manipulation for anti-democratic purposes (Government of Canada, n.d.), although as the National Review mentions, government is limited to force a private corporation to limit freedom of speech (French, 2019).
In conclusion, as users, we must be aware of an important issue such as censorship, as it does not only affects ‘loud’ users, it affects ‘regular’ users as well. When our actions in social media have to be monitor and approve before posting so we pass with a green light; if not, we can get banned or silenced. Taking the example from Logan Paul, as long a person means revenue, platforms are not likely to take further action, but as seen, conservative parties or conspiracy theorists tend to be silenced. As users, we must be aware that any social media platform can censor any user, whether for being ‘loud’ or ‘breaking the rules.’
Ben – Trusted Flagger. (2018, January 9). You didn’t act accordingly; the video was reviewed, approved & allowed on trending after it had 6 million views. Logan took the video down himself. YouTube put out a statement implying it was okay, until others spoke up. Any actions taken after were driven by others condemning it [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/TrustedFlagger/status/950858712301887489?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.teenvogue.com%2Fstory%2Flogan-paul-youtube-repsonse-backlash.
Expecting social media platforms to act. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/democratic-institutions/news/2019/01/encouraging-social-media-platforms-to-act.html.
French, D. (2019, June 6) Social-Media Censorship is the Product of Culture and Commerce. Retrieved from https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/social-media-censorship-is-the-product-of-culture-and-commerce/.
Hudson, M. (2019, May 8). What is Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-is-social-media-2890301.
Laloggia, J. (2019, July 11) U.S. public has little confidence in social media companies to determine offensive content. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/11/u-s-public-has-little-confidence-in-social-media-companies-to-determine-offensive-content/.
Mercier, J. (n.d.) Everyone Should be Concerned About Social Media Censorship. Retrieved from https://medium.com/swlh/social-media-censorship-makes-division-and-radicalization-worse-acdb0ac6feac.
Social Media. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 6, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media.
Walsh, M. (2019, May 2). This is crazy. They just banned someone who has never broken any of their rules or violated their terms of service in any way. This is political censorship, straight up. [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/MattWalshBlog/status/1124094724732747777?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.embedly.com%2Fwidgets%2Fmedia.html%3Ftype%3Dtext%252Fhtml%26key%3Da19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07%26schema%3Dtwitter%26url%3Dhttps%253A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmattwalshblog%2Fstatus%2F1124094724732747777%26image%3Dhttps%253A%2F%2Fpbs.twimg.com%2Fprofile_images%2F959508589877649414%2FItSs3rdG_400x400.jpg
YouTube punishes Logan Paul over Japan suicide video. (2018, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42644321.