Discuss whether the government of a country should play an active role in regulating social media.
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Today, social media or Social Networking Sites (SNS) have taken centre stage in our lives. The SNS giants have acquired many platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram to make themselves even more enmeshed (Cause to become entangled in something) and indispensable in our society and leverage on a very wide user base. Evidently, this has brought not just benefits but ills and social problems, some of which are so insidious (Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects) as to strike very powerfully at the core of society. Such negative effects of SNS platforms have led to some asking if local and national governments should step in and enact legislation to regulate them. This essay will consider the case for and case against the state’s involvement in regulating SNS platforms.
Guide to writing a good thesis statement
Your thesis statement:
– Should be a response to the question, not a repetition of it
– Must answer the question fully, not partially
– Must make your position perfectly clear
– Must be fair-minded; Should not be sweeping remarks
– Must be incisive and concise; Should not be overly detailed
– Must be logically sound
Regulations are needed as the companies and executives that run SNS platforms and their related companies cannot be wholly trusted since they may engage in very unscrupulous practices.
These may include collaborating with companies that intend to mine and capitalise on the data generated by SNS users, which is a violation of their right to privacy and the right to not let others know of their private lives. Other practices include targeted advertising and deliberate manipulation of search results and news feeds.
The quintessential (Representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class) case that captured the public imagination most is the “Facebook-Cambridge Analytica” scandal. Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist at Cambridge University, developed an app called “This Is Your Digital Life”. He provided the app to Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica, in turn, arranged an informed consent (Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something) process for research in which several hundred thousand Facebook users would agree to complete a survey only for academic use. However, Facebook’s design allowed this app not only to collect the personal information of people who agreed to take the survey, but also the personal information of all the people in those users’ Facebook social network. In this way Cambridge Analytica acquired data from millions of Facebook users, allegedly (Used to convey that something is claimed to be the case or have taken place, although there is no proof) to make psychological messages and individualised advertising to manipulate voters at elections and referenda (A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision) including the United States presidential election and the referendum on the question of whether Britain should remain in the European Union.
The data scandal exposed the dark underbelly (A hidden unpleasant or criminal part of society) of Facebook’s SNS platforms and highlighted some of their partners’ problematic and questionable business practices. With regulation, such unethical practices could be mitigated (Make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful).
It is therefore in the public interest that we regulate SNS sites.
*Public Interest in Media Law:
The public interest is about what matters to everyone in society. It is about the common good, the general welfare and the security and well-being of everyone in the community we serve. The public interest is not just what the readers, listeners or viewers want either as consumers or people who want to be entertained. It is about issues that affect everyone, even if many of them are not aware of it. The public interest is in having a safe, healthy and fully functioning society. In a democracy, journalism plays a central role in that. It gives people the information they need to take part in the democratic process.
Regulations are needed as the content spread and propagated (Spread and promote (an idea, theory, etc.) widely) by SNS could contain many malicious and dangerous falsehoods.
Such falsehoods are a compelling (Not able to be refuted; inspiring conviction) reason for regulation of the SNS platforms as they could very well result in dire consequences for society, from simple defamation all the way to cold-blooded murder based on erroneous (Wrong; incorrect) facts, falsehoods or fake news. They could even be used to radically alter a country’s future direction at elections!
In 2017, fake messages of child kidnapping and other crimes were circulated in India via WhatsApp. The messages targeted innocent people like Kaalu who became an unwitting (Not done on purpose; unintentional) victim of baseless anger from the local residents.
The death of Kaalu perpetrated by gullible local residents who unilaterally (Used to indicate that something is done by only one person, group, or country involved in a situation, without the agreement of others) believed in Whatsapp’s spurious (fake) messages underscores the need to promptly regulate the domain/ sphere of S.N.S in case another innocent life is potentially at stake.
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However, there are limitations to regulating the SNS companies. Regulating them brings the possibility that such regulations may be misused.
Such misuse include stifling various rights of the citizen, for example, freedom of speech and the right to privacy of his life and not being tracked online by the government all day long. They may take the form of issuing orders to take down offending posts, posts that are injurious to the government’s reputation (even if some truth is contained in the post) and issuing orders to SNS companies to monitor and turn over information related to certain accounts.
Thailand has proposed an all-powerful cyber agency to ‘spy on the Internet traffic, order the removal of content, or even seize computers without judicial oversight, alarming businesses and activists. It has even targeted people who merely look at and share posts that defame the Thai king and his family, not just those who write the posts that are offensive. The Thai Computer Crimes Act, Thai Cybersecurity Act and Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code have also been used as political tools to silence the online and SNS presence of the opposition and dissidents and send them to long-term detention in squalid jails. It has even asked SNS platforms like Facebook to remove any material critical of, or defamatory to, the imperial household and the government. Many countries with non-liberal forms of government are going this way too.
When governments turn despotic (a person, especially a ruler, who has unlimited power over other people, and often uses it unfairly and cruelly) and tyrannical, the potential for such misuse rises exponentially, and with such misuse the risk that society does not have legitimate debates and discourse it needs to have also increases.
The loss of privacy on SNS platforms and the infringement of free speech by the government are two scary possible repercussions of introducing such regulations on SNS, with dire consequences for society in turn.
It is pointless to regulate SNS in the first place as their products change so fast. Regulations would be reactive rather than anticipatory and pre-emptive, as the regulators would be invariably playing ‘catch-up’ to the latest developments of SNS companies.
In the race to attract new and young users, the SNS platforms have been rapidly modernising their offerings. Regulators would often have very little time, or even none at all to scrutinise the modernisations before they are brought out to the public.
Facebook is wholly different now than in 2004 when it was first launched. Attempts to regulate it through legislation would likely fail as the average time to pass laws through a country’s parliament can be from six months to two or three years!
By the time the regulations get past the reading, voting, clearing and assent (The expression of approval or agreement) cycles, the SNS platforms are likely to have changed even further in the way they function and regulations would no longer be relevant.
Wielding regulations to control SNS would thus not be practical for this reason.
For the foregoing (involving what has just been mentioned or described) reasons stated, one can very clearly appreciate that governmental regulation of SNS has both merits and disadvantages. Society must still decide for itself what it wants from social media, and use it for the betterment of citizens’ lives. However, I would personally be against regulating social media, as such regulations could lead to an eventual slippery slope into denial of the citizen’s basic rights. In order to prevent such draconian (strict) regulations from being imposed, individually, we need to use social media responsibly.
Guide to writing a good conclusion
– Reiterate your stand/position
– Provide a brief overview of the main points you covered in the essay
– Do not merely repeat the points in the same way you phrased them in your body paragraph. Re-express your ideas to showcase your language ability — your range of vocabulary and sentence structures.
– Reflect on the overall issue in the question; Provide closure by taking a macro perspective of the focus of the question.
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