Social media’s failings have made regulation nearly inevitable

The GameStop saga re-shed light on the power of social media. After the stock price of a loss-making video game retailer soared, the two million dollar subreddit r / WallStreetBets showed that a single group with enough will can even take over the mighty world of hedge funds and make some money for themselves.

However, this, as well as Twitter’s suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s account, raises questions of control. Who controls the public discourse in our society? People, platform or government? Also, who should be in control? There is now no denying that the public voice can overwhelm even established institutions. The arms race is on who controls most of this vote.

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It’s not the first time social media has raised tough ethical questions. In this day and age with sociopolitical, cultural and economic dust thrown in the air, the need to understand this technology from a personal and professional perspective has become more pressing. Banned and isolated social platforms have become an important way to connect with friends and share information about the pandemic. The usage for message consumption increased sharply worldwide in the past year. But it also allowed misinformation to spread and encouraged marginalized groups whose ideas don’t have a solid foundation.

Our dilemmas cannot be resolved by referring to traditional ethical ideals. Absolute libertarians want beliefs to be spread without censorship. Government authors propose strict regulation. Others look for similarities and try to smooth the boundaries of the social by imposing a moral framework on their online behavior. There is no single solution.

The reality for marketers like me is that one of our best tools, if used incorrectly, can wreak havoc in the real world. Algorithms that promote a race to extremes can always do harm. But there is no doubt that social media can forever be a force. Facebook is a powerful fundraising tool that is raising millions through initiatives like the Season for Giving. Instagram has offered mindfulness classes, breathing workshops, and home fitness sessions for tens of thousands of free. And how many businesses were created or rescued by social media in the past year, either through monetized content or by selling products directly to consumers? When I step back from the limelight of documentaries warning people about the negative effects of social media, I find it hard to ignore the positive effects of everyday life.

Regulation is not the answer to the problem that the social has a positive effect. Placed in the hands of the government, it will begin to lean one way or another. It will only introduce more bias and decrease the public voice. People with a cause should be able to stand up and scream what’s important to them without having to turn the arm of other mainstream media outlets to get on board. However, the urgent need to address the ethical issues that social media has raised over the past year makes it more likely that the government will intervene day by day.

At the individual level, many of the negative effects of the social can be offset by taking into account the potential real-world outcome of each post, no matter how harmless it appears to the poster. As casual goalkeepers in the social field who stand at the interface between people and the platform, marketing agencies have the responsibility to show the way and to lead by example. We run social media campaigns around the world, and this appreciation of the real results now forms the basis of our agency’s approach.

In a broader sense, more systematic, there are two main solutions. First, that the platforms do more to incentivize proper use. YouTube and TikTok have motivated creators through donations and effectively rewarded those who use these channels in prosocial and useful ways.

Second, agencies, organizations, and individuals can work together to find common ground by embedding a set of unspoken but agreed social use rules – a kind of “common law” – with which a large majority of users are broadly satisfied is.

This will pave the way for effective self-regulation by the platforms themselves and deter government regulators whose interventions will only make platforms more dangerous.

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