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All You Need To Know About Social Media Regulation




by Suhana Williams


While social media has bridged the gap between people and eradicated physical distance, it isn't all hunky-dory on the social media planet. Today, social media has been the platform for most cases of sedition, spreading incorrect information, and the playground of cancel culture.


A very recent example of how social media is being used to incite people is President Trump’s provoking tweets for millions of followers. The incident fired up the entire USA, with several followers of Trump vandalizing the Capitol.


Apart from an impeachment from the Senator House, Trump was also banned from using social media giants Facebook and Twitter. This incident launched a shower of questions on social media companies about handling harmful content shared on their platforms.


So, can this year be heralded as the era of social media regulatory reforms? Let us delve a little deeper into that!


Table of Contents

  1. 1. What is the Debate on Social Media Regulations All about?

  2. 2. Free Speech vs. Social Media Bans

  3. 3. 4 Factors That Make Social Media Regulation Tricky

  4. 4. What Regulatory Measures Can Social Media Platforms Take?


1. What is the Debate on Social Media Regulations All about?

Just like it is important to regulate the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, the same rule applies to the use of social media. A major argument that pushes the debate in favour of regulating social media is how it empowers corporations to control data flow.


That brings us to an important question – what sectors to focus on, and what are the things to keep in mind when imposing social media regulations? Here are some pointers to keep in mind!

  • While most of us think that only businesses benefit from social media, we tend to forget how social media goes beyond that. The governments of countries like Russia and the Philippines have used social media as a tool to continue their oppressive regime and remain in power.

  • Mental health is another factor to focus on when it comes to social media. There’s even a health aspect to consider. Social media used the casino-gambler formula to allure users with constant notifications and influence them to check out the latest post. Now, when you consider that even adolescents as young as 12 have social media accounts, the flip side alarms you.Having said that, we also need to remember that too much regulation can be dangerous. If you are wondering how, take a look at the points below.

  • Social media regulation can oppress unpopular opinions and prevent the voice of the minority from being heard. Some believe that strong regulation can stifle the exchange of ideas.

  • Too many regulations to stop the abuse of social media can end up preventing important conversations on topics such as online education, women's safety, and empowerment, abortion,foreign policies, immigration, gun control, and more.

  • Depending on who makes the laws, it could impact the commoner negatively. Excessive regulation may even discourage innovation, limiting our ability to grow and be profitable.

So, can we strike a harmonious balance between the two sides?

Most of us who feel that social media regulation is a good thing to an extent believe that a government should be okay with everything we post unless it is something really upsetting.


Also, for those of you doubtful about the extent of regulations, I must remind you of the chances of creating a social media oligarchy. If that happens, the richest participants will be free to spread dangerous misinformation and exercise unbridled power to churn more profit.


Therefore, in the end, it boils down to personal responsibility and common sense. Even before any regulation stops people from spreading wrong information or using social unethical, we should be accountable for our actions.


We have already seen too many examples where laws have failed to stop gullible people. Moreover, we cannot trust anyone to determine what social media is being used as a free speech platform or an entity to commit fraud.


Here is more about how social media regulations thwart the right to free speech.


2. Free Speech vs. Social Media Bans

What makes social media regulation a tricky affair is that social media platforms were partly created for people to exercise their right to free speech. While this has helped several come out of the closet and share their passion with others, hate speech has become a major problem too.


So, how do social media moguls act in this situation?

  • Well, to put things legally, a private firm has the prerogative to censor people on its platform. But the question looming large is: When is it appropriate to “de-platform” people?

  • Banning from platforms can also be interpreted as an act of bias when it comes to notable people and iconoclasts. Social media companies always run the risk of being called out for exercising their conservative voices. As the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, several people feel that “the president’s accounts being permanently suspended is problematic.”

  • Also, many feel that banning a single account cannot be counted as an adequate solution to resolve deep-rooted issues like spreading hate, amplifying conspiracy theories, and other problematic content.

So, why does it become so difficult to regulate social media platforms? The next segment unravels the reason why controlling social media becomes such a hassle.


3. 4 Factors That Make Social Media Regulation Tricky

Here are some points that must be considered in this case:


a. Bandwidth plays an important role:

A significant reason why it becomes nearly impossible to regulate social media due to its fundamental blocks and dimensions that are in stark contrast to traditional media.


First of all, conventional news channels have limited bandwidth. The limited primetime and headline slots influence a smaller audience in comparison. However, social media platforms have infinite bandwidth, where millions of users can target a much narrower audience.


b. No option for filtering and editing:

Unlike traditional news content, social media is entirely unfiltered. When you watch a primetime news show, you are listening to content that has been edited as per the audience's personalities and viewpoints. There are no ad-libs whatsoever.


This makes it easier to regulate what data is being shared and hold companies accountable.


There is no way of editing and filtering the content as it is user-generated when it comes to social media.


c. There is no prerogative to choose:

In traditional news media, audiences can choose the content they consume – be it a magazine column or a headline slot on the TV. However, as a social media user, you have little control over the content you see. Whatever is posted by accounts you follow will ultimately show on your timeline.


Moreover, social media platforms use complex algorithms to keep users scrolling. This can end in you being exposed to radical posts even if you do not like them.


d. It isn’t profit-driven

Although traditional media companies and social media platforms are profit-driven, the strategies followed by both for maximizing profits are very different. This is another reason why the same regulatory frameworks will not apply interchangeably for both media platforms.


For traditional media, limited bandwidth, editorial oversight, and polarization help them earn more. In contrast, social media platforms leverage by pushing personalized content to maximize scroll time.


That brings us to the most crucial question: Is there no way social media can be regulated to block out harmful manipulators?


4. What Regulatory Measures Can Social Media Platforms Take?

The resultant effect of the sedition cases and cancel culture is how social media platforms have finally taken note of the ongoing problem. This has compelled social media platforms to introduce a new era of social media regulation that will be enforced externally and internally.


Here are the key areas that will witness effective reforms soon:

  • Along with the Trump ban, Twitter has introduced several other changes, including the banning of more than 70,000 accounts participating in the QAnun conspiracy theory group. In the light of the Capitol attacks in January, Facebook has marked the phrase “stop the steal” as a blocker.

  • Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have also introduced several algorithms to take down content and videos that incite violence.

  • The US government is also all set to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This act protects online companies from bearing the liability for user-generated content posted and shared on their platforms. Several other countries are also following suit to impose social media regulations to protect users from harmful content.

  • This has forced social media platforms to consider and meet certain standards to ensure transparency and data protection. As per revised laws, social media companies would be held liable for allowing user-generated hateful or disinformation on their platforms.

Parting words,

To bring in real change in the realm of social media, the brand owners will have to work in unison with the government of countries. The regulatory measures must go beyond detecting political foul play. The reforms must be efficient enough to address the root causes at play.


Apart from regulatory measures imposed by governments and social media platforms, self-regulation will also play an important role.This includes your discretion to determine what is wrong and right before taking a step. Moreover, as an account holder, it will be your responsibility to stop hatred and calling out provokers.


So, the next time you see a radical and inciting post, make sure to report the account instead of just scrolling past it. Be proactive and take responsibility to make this world a better place.

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