Social Media and the Dissemination of Disinformation, a Double Edged Knife towards our Democracy

By Emiree Campbell

The correlation between social media and the dissemination of disinformation is very frightening now more than ever. Amidst the pandemic we also have to worry about the aftermath this correlation has caused us and will continue to cause us if not properly addressed. The attack on the capital due to former President Trump’s twitter rants on the legitimacy of the election. The huge out roar and leading protests executed by members of the BLM movement concerning the killing of George Floyd. This much is understandable however the advertising and postings of police brutality well enough encouraged riots. The conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and QAnon, this hurting the trust of many Americans across the country in our medical advances and top members of the democratic party.

I believe Tech Giants are in a difficult place, not only do they have to ensure our safety by adopting and implementing policies on Civic Integrity, Public Health, and Violence & Extremism. They also have to remember and protect our freedom of speech. I don’t believe this is a win- win situation. In some shape or form our democracy is being attacked by a double edged knife.

What I found most interesting was that social media platforms already changed hundreds of policies within the past year and half of them have failed to address the issues of disinformation. A report issued by Decode Democracy deem tech companies self regulation practices insufficient and urges lawmakers to take action. This report focuses on nine popular platforms Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and lastly TikTok. Between August 1, 2019 and January 22, 2021, these companies altogether have made 321 policy changes.

The report argues that despite those changes social media platforms have largely failed to alleviate the growing problem of online disinformation. This knowledge worries me. Why not fix the problem at hand sooner rather than later. Shouldn’t the most opposing threat be dealt with first? It is extremely irresponsible to fix something after the worst has happened. Tech giants cannot afford to be irresponsible when the lives of many are at stake. 

However, some part of me feels indifferent about these news laws restricting the dissemination of disinformation. I say this because it’s attacking a form of freedom of speech. If these laws are put in place we the people are safe from lies and hate speech however we will never know the true characteristics of a person. You can learn a lot about someone based on the content they share and partake in. Are these laws really providing a source of security?

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