#SocialMedia has its Day on the Hill

Posted: November 21, 2017 in Meat Me @ Camera 4
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


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By @anarchyroll

Do social media platforms or the people running them have a responsibility to the public or to the republic? Is it in the nature of the services to spread modern-day propaganda which has been repackaged as fake news? Are these mediums a cause for negative events or are they simply mirrors and microphones? Are they bringing the worst out of people and society? Or are they just the biggest magnifying glass in the history of the species?

Are these services really that much different from the mediums that came before them? Radio and television have the exact same purpose as social media services…..to sell ads and the information about the people who consume them.

There is no moral compass at play with Facebook, with Twitter, especially with Google or Instagram or Snapchat. They are capitalist enterprises with one reason for existing, to make money. So if one or all of the companies get offered a lot of money from a foreign country to run political ads during a presidential campaign, why wouldn’t they take the money and put the content on their platform?

Oh, the information was blatantly false? It was straight up propaganda from a foreign government? Yeah okay but, they paid up front. Money talks. In America the Supreme Court has literally said money equals speech.

If anyone thinks Facebook or Google has a moral compass or conscious, try and find out exactly what they’re doing with all that personal metadata they mine from everyone who uses their services and/or apps.

It is not just a little too late to have the “ so social media companies have a responsibility” argument. That ship sailed once the collective population decided we didn’t want our phones to be phones anymore. Once the companies realized they were able to tap into our collective dopamine addictions by turning what used to be a portable audio communicator into a slot machine that can fit into a skinny jeans pocket, responsibility went right out the window.

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Do casinos have a responsibility to their guests other than making them enjoy losing their wages? Of course not, the whole business model is built around taking money out of people’s pockets and into the casino safe. Well social media is the casino and our attention and personal information is the cash.

On top of all that, Facebook (which owns Instagram), Twitter, and Snapchat are publicly traded companies. So quite literally, their only responsibility is to maximize profits for their shareholders. Their collective interest in the health of democracy only goes as far as the stock market opening and closing on time.

Americans love social media. We also love seeing powerful people get yelled at in public by elected officials. Dogs and ponies are adorable, who wouldn’t want to see a whole show of them? Well we got the best of both worlds last week when lawyers representing the big social media players went to capitol hill and got a verbal spanking from some very angry public officials.

It was modern American politics personified. Verbal spankings, non answers, legislation proposed but not supported, visual aide charts, legal jargon, and pledges to do better in the future. The vitriol directed at social media is just a reflection of our collective anger at ourselves. We’re angry for thinking social media would be a tool for good and not just a tool to make money.

We’re angry at ourselves for being so readily fooled by fake news that we’re all to easily manipulated into believing are the real thing. We’re angry at ourselves because we thought the internet, and the web 2.0 that social media represents would make us more informed and more united. Instead it’s deepened our divide and by putting our preexisting confirmation biases on technological steroids.

Our elected officials can yell at high-priced lawyers all they want. Public berating is much easier than putting regulations into place. It’s easier for Facebook and Twitter to higher more lobbyists than more moderators to discern what is being put on their platforms, by whom, and for what purpose. It’s easier to apologize later than to do the right thing in the moments of choice. We know this. That’s why we’re not angry at social media for what happened during the 2016 election season, we’re angry at ourselves.

 

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