Social media regulation - should we be doing more?


Amongst the Tiger Kings and Selling Sunsets that exploded onto our streaming services this year, Netflix’s illuminating documentary The Social Dilemma has sparked heated discussion throughout the digital sphere. The titans behind our most beloved social media platforms were given the floor and they used it to describe how the platforms they built are not the platforms we see before us today. It was positively Frankenstein-esque.  

Calls for tighter regulation across the social media industry have been made for some time. And whilst some legislation has been created, the law lags woefully behind. We have to ask the question: What are we doing to regulate social media, and is it enough?

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The ‘fake news’ phenomenon

Ah, the well-used buzz phrase, and a personal favourite of Donald Trump. Since the 2016 US election, social media platforms have been pressured by activists and other users to try and separate fact from fiction. As challenges go, this is a biggie. Just where do you start with regulation when anyone with a social media account can post, without any accountability or fact checking?

Take Trump’s now infamous Twitter account. During the course of this month’s election results, the platform added disclaimers to some of the former President’s tweets, letting users know that they were not based in fact. People opposed to regulation argue that tighter controls obstructs their ‘right to free speech’. However, surely any reputable platform would want to make it their duty to ensure the information published is true?

It would appear not. For now, it seems that Twitter is one of the only platforms taking visible steps against the publication of misinformation.

The new advertising standard

We’ve all heard the stories about the detrimental effects social media can have on our mental health. This is a particularly worrying trend amongst young people who have not experienced life without social media in it. 

The commentary from The Social Dilemma presents some harrowing correlations between the increase in teen suicides and the rise of social media platforms. Instagram particularly has come under fire. There are big question marks regarding transparency when it comes to the editing of images. There’s also concern around ‘influencers’ promoting a series of diet and weight loss products; giving users a distorted sense of self and a feeling of inadequacy in the face of the airbrushed faces staring back at them.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has released a new set of rules for the online sphere. An important one is that any influencer must be clear about what is and what isn’t paid-for advertorial. 

Picture perfect 

Where Instagram is concerned, it seems the platform is introducing measures when it comes to its native photo editing filters. Whenever one is used either in a story or a grid post, the app will now identify the filter used. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t capture images that have been edited with external software prior to being uploaded. 

Broadcaster and activist Jameela Jamil went head to head with Instagram over the need for regulation. Her point was that you can’t, in all good consciousness, allow the advertisement of certain diet and weight loss products that aren’t always FDA approved. In 2019, the campaign made a significant victory when the platform agreed this content shouldn’t be shown to anyone under the age of 18.

Without thorough identification verification, it’s difficult for the platform to ensure all those who say they’re over 18 are telling the truth. But there’s no doubt that these guidelines are a step in the right direction. 

This is a mere snapshot of a topic that’s not going anywhere soon. What’s clear is that there is likely to be an ongoing conversation around how to manage and regulate social media platforms. In our recent poll on LinkedIn, 70% of those who voted believe that tighter regulation is in order.  

Whilst our ability to publish what we choose on social media is a great thing for freedom, it’s a privilege, not a right. We all have to do our bit to hold ourselves accountable. Working together is the only way to ensure that social media is used for good, rather than to damage and mislead.  

If you’d like some more information on getting the best out of your social media channels, please contact Bobble Digital today. It’s our business to know the latest and greatest that social media has to offer, leaving you to focus on your business.

  

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