Should the Government Regulate Social Media Companies?

Should the Government Regulate Social Media Companies?

Social media is a very effective tool of conveying information quickly and to many people; it, however, has its downsides. One of the critical issues raised regarding social media is that it is a major contributor to misinformation (Siripirapu & Merrow, 2021).

Although hateful information and fake news may be disseminated through other channels of communication, social media has been highlighted particularly for being narrowcasters. What this means is that unlike traditional platforms, social media have the ability to “pinpoint who you are [and make] frequent personalized editorial decisions based on…geological information taken from your cell phone” (Wareham, 2020 para.3). Even so, these platforms are said to be exempt from laws as well as regulations governing traditional media. This means that social media is not regulated and does not take responsibility for the information shared by users.

In light of the above, the question arises as to whether or not social media companies should be regulated. Much as social media contributes towards misinformation and fake speech, the issue of stifling freedom of speech is one of the key points raised by opponents of government regulation of social media. From available literature, there seems to be a consensus that regulating social media will grossly violate freedom of speech as provided for in the constitution. Secondly, while there is no doubt that illegal content such as violent extremism and child pornography ought to be regulated, it is difficult to draw the line between fake and accurate content (Kumar, 2019). Moreover, there is evidence that major social media companies are very keen on regulating the kind of content that they air.

According to Siripurapu and Merrow (2021), companies such as Facebook and Google-which owns YouTube- have policies for content moderation. These companies bar any posts that encourage violence or promote hate speech. Nevertheless, the truth is that social media firms find it difficult to regulate or moderate content. For example, it is reported that distinguishing between satire, commentary and hate speech can prove tricky at times. Because of this and other challenges, some firms have requested that the government steps in to regulate social media content (Siripurapu & Merrow, 2021).

In light of the above considerations, the best approach would be for governments to regulate social media companies. In countries such as Germany, Australia, Kenya, and India where there is full or partial freedom of internet, governments still regulate social media firms (Siripurapu & Merrow, 2021). The conclusion drawn from these examples is that much as social media firms should be given some discretion to moderate their content, governments should have the final say on what can or cannot be published on social media.

References
Kumar, R. (2019). Government should not regulate social media. https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/government-should-not-regulate-social-media-57786/
Siripurapu, A. & Merrow, W. (2021). Social media and online speech: how should countries regulate tech giants? https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/social-media-and-online-speech-how-should-countries-regulate-tech-giants
Wareham, J. (2020). Should social media platforms be regulated? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/esade/2020/02/10/should-social-media-platforms-be-regulated/?sh=3fab18723370

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