Social media needs to take responsibility for itself

Published on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:46
Written by the Victoria (Texas) Advocate

The American people’s relationship with Facebook is changing from “friends” to “it’s complicated.”

Friends don’t lie to each other daily. If the social media giant keeps promoting dishonesty, then its relationship with the public could be irrevocably broken.

During recent congressional hearings, Facebook officials revealed they allowed Russian agents, intending to sow discord among American citizens, to disseminate inflammatory posts that reached 126 million users.

In addition, Facebook is littered with fake or otherwise unscrupulous accounts. The company has estimated that 5.5-11.2 percent of its 1 billion users are fake.

At a national level, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner have introduced a bipartisan bill to require internet companies to identify those who paid for political ads on the tech companies’ platforms. These internet companies should be held to the same standards as broadcasters.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to Facebook to police itself or lose its customers. The company has no excuse for allowing about 100 million fake accounts on its platform. Even when users report obviously fake accounts to Facebook, the company is slow to act if it ever does.

Facebook, Twitter and Google all share responsibility for making the country’s political rhetoric uglier and more divisive than ever. These social media outlets happily promote the good they do, but they have turned a blind eye to the harm created by hate masquerading as a friend.

In this depressing and discouraging social media climate, it’s understandable, if not acceptable, that elected officials and others might feel the need to secretly post responses or troll others. When the pig starts slinging mud, it’s tempting to get in there and fight back. However, all that achieves is to get everyone covered in mud and make the pig even happier.

Facebook is a $306 billion company profiting in part from mud-slinging. It needs to exert all of its resources on cleaning up its act.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:46. Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:48.