What On-line Integrity Will Look Like In 2022

The opinions of entrepreneurs’ contributors are their own.

While the internet has opened up a plethora of new opportunities, it cannot be denied that many have been able to use it to cause significant damage. For example, the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Report revealed 791,790 reported cyber crime complaints in 2020, a significant increase from 2019 figures. Likewise, the FTC received 4.8 million fraud or identity theft complaints in 2020. But of course, many online crimes are never reported.

Crime – be it fraud or child abuse – is hardly the only problem facing the internet. The spread of disinformation, hate speech and extremism are also real threats.

Unsurprisingly, governments, tech companies, and others are taking increased measures to keep the Internet safe for all users. Your response to these ongoing challenges will undoubtedly shape the future of online integrity in 2022 and in the years to come.

Current challenges in the online world

When most people think of online integrity issues, they focus on the above issues like fraud and identity theft. These are certainly no small matter. From fake social media accounts used to steal information to fraudulent emails and malware, there are many tools that malicious actors use to steal private information.

However, malicious content has become even more widespread in recent years. In the US, this can be seen most clearly in the widespread disinformation about the 2020 elections and the Covid pandemic.

As a report by CBS details shows, even in seemingly innocuous areas like the wellness community (which includes yoga teachers and other wellness practitioners), their social media feeds have been flooded with conspiracy theories designed to instill suspicion. Even after QAnon conspiracy theories have been debunked repeatedly, this pernicious source of disinformation continues to exert its influence in discussions about electoral fraud.

As problematic as disinformation can be when shared by a friend or family member, loopholes or oversights in platform policies have created even bigger problems on a global scale.

After the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, the terrorist organization used social media to increase its influence, largely because the Taliban were smart enough to ensure that their uploaded content didn’t break the platform’s rules.

The resurgence of the Taliban is made even more difficult by the fact that the US does not officially classify the group as a terrorist organization, even though the UN Security Council does.

In India, anti-Muslim allegations known as “jihad conspiracies” have spread disinformation and sowed discord in local communities, mainly because Facebook does not regulate such content.

It has become increasingly difficult for platform owners and government officials to find appropriate measures to review and eliminate such harmful content, particularly with regard to arguments relating to freedom of expression. The global, international reach of online platforms makes such efforts even more difficult.

Related: 3 Reasons We Fall For Conspiracy Theories

What is being done to improve online integrity?

Most efforts to improve online integrity ultimately have to come from the platform owners themselves. In an ongoing effort to combat disinformation regarding the pandemic, vaccines, and other related issues, social media platforms have continuously updated their guidelines on what content is acceptable and unacceptable. Some platforms use specific wording for issues such as election disinformation, while others prefer a broader wording.

A whitepaper from ActiveFence, a service that proactively detects malicious content and prevents malicious actors, stated, “As we’ve learned, content policies should protect the security of platform users first and foremost. Policy makers need to be aware of all relevant regulations and laws to ensure that the guidelines are compliant with the law. Guidelines should be rigorous and detailed, but should also not be exhaustive. The challenge for decision makers is to build a content scoring system that protects the spirit of the formulation and can respond to new and evolving threats. In addition, companies need to understand their place in a dynamic digital environment – both today and in the future. “

In particular, domestic and foreign policies and trends must be taken into account in such efforts in order to reduce the influence of bad actors.

The government is also stepping up its efforts to contain the potential harm the internet is causing, particularly those affecting children. Recent congressional hearings, for example, have emphasized the responsibility of platforms like YouTube and Snapchat to protect vulnerable youth on social media. Concerns about data-driven advertising and the potential for mental health harm were instrumental in driving these discussions.

While no concrete action has yet been taken, there seems to be a growing consensus between the two parties that additional regulation of social media is necessary. Bills have already been put in place to make these platforms more transparent, and it is likely that government pressure (both inside and outside the United States) will increase in 2022.

Related: Preventing conspiracy theories from spreading in times of crisis requires effective leadership

Creating a Safer Online Future

The challenges associated with maintaining online integrity are immense.

Ultimately, the security of the Internet requires a concerted effort by technology platforms, government agencies, brands, and NGOs to minimize the potential harm that malicious individuals can cause.

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