Dilemma of Social Media 

(some negatives of social media cont.)

Initially it was thought that the Internet would help democracy by giving a way for people to express their opinions uncensored. Yet it has been hijacked by

totalitarian regimes like China,

corporate identities like tech companies, eg Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc

extremists (fundamentalists, terrorists, etc).

Their agendas, eg political, militarily, financial, etc can be at odds or in conflict the best interests of society as a whole. Some examples

- military

"...redefining war as a conflict between networks, highlighting growing capabilities to blind or distraught military and civilian systems at the outset of a conflict..."

Robert Spalding 2019

authoritarian regimes controlling information, or misinformation, that their people can see and read

"...the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the past 2 years......social media was increasingly being co-opted by government to suppress human rights, discredit political opponents and stifle dissent......and interfere in foreign affairs..."

Oxford Internet Institute as quoted by Davey Alba et al 2019

Facebook is the main platform for disinformation and is found in 56 countries.

Techniques include bots, fake social media accounts, trolls, ie

"...Governments have used cyber troops to shape public opinion, including networks of bots to amplify messages, groups of controls to harass political dissenters or journalists and scores of fake social media accounts to misrepresent how many people engage with an issue..."

Davey Alba et al 2019

Many governments have tried to copy what the Russians did in the US in 2016, ie interfered in the US presidential election using social media.

corporate identities making money out of people's private data

All this highlights the need for a free press that can report without fear or favour. Journalists can expose misdeeds of people in positions of influence and injustices to those marginalised. At the same time they have a responsibility to keep people informed. Yet

"...modern society seems much better at sowing doubt, polarisation and mutual suspicion..."

Pope Francis as quoted by Jason Rezaian 2019

"...The utopian notion of an Internet that unifies people across borders, fosters the unfettered flow of information, and allows truth and reason to thrive is already under attack on multiple fronts..." 

Suzanne Nossel 2018 

Already governments in countries, like China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, etc want to be able to interfere, censor, manipulate, etc information and access to the Internet by its citizens. For example, Google in 2010 withdrew from China as it was uncomfortable with that government's demands, such as its stranglehold on political freedom, freedom of speech and civil liberties. Then in 2018 Google reversed its decision and agreed to the Chinese demands so that it could get access to the Chinese market. Allowing governments access to "private" information has led to the description of these Internet giants as 

"...While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies..." 

Republican Tom Lantos as quoted by 
Suzanne Nossel 2018 

The financial lure of China can be too great, ie 

"...According to September 2017 report by Boston Consulting Group, with more than 700 million users (nearly as many as the next two biggest markets - India and the United States - combined) and close to $US 100 billion in revenue, China has become the world's largest Internet market by several measures, only behind the United States in terms of online spending. The future upside seems nearly boundless. With its vast and upwardly mobile rural population, growth rates in Chinese Internet use far outpace any other market, with Internet penetration rates still lagging well behind those of other G20 countries. Right behind the US tech giants Google, Amazon and Facebook, five of the world's 10 largest Internet companies are Chinese, including Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu. China is also home to 20 to 40% of the world's "unicorns", defined as privately held start-ups valued at more than US$ 1 billion..." 

Suzanne Nossel 2018

Any leading global player cannot afford not to be involved in China. To do this, they have to become active partners in the government's efforts to silence dissent through censorship, mass surveillance, and the use of criminal charges.

The Chinese justify their position under the notion of cyber-sovereignty. This rejects the universalism of the Internet in favour of the idea that each country has a right to shape and control the Internet within its borders. This paradigm stands in direct opposition to the concept of an open Internet.

It needs to be remembered that Internet platforms are profit-making identities, not human rights organisations!!!! 


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