With a whirlwind sweeping through politics, 2020 is bracing us for a year of change on a social, environmental, and political front. While some countries are tightening their reins on the economy and environment, many countries are in the midst of a wave of reforms, demands, and realisations.
So where does Social Media come into play?
Taking Lebanon’s recent revolution as an example, social media has been a major catalyst for the recent social uprising. Anger sparked by news of a governmental reform taxing the messaging platform WhatsApp, inciting a united front to mobilise almost instantaneously. Across 20 cities, if not more. 60 something days later, and the citizens protesting are using platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, and the aforementioned WhatsApp to disseminate information and coordinate movements and marches. The instantaneous nature of these platforms is realised and appreciated as masses march through the city streets, phones in hand, live streams at the ready. Without these diverse and subversive tools, call to action would be scarce and slow.
Some may say that this pro of social media overrules the cons – the over exaggerated human connectedness means that our struggles and strife are one, from Lebanon to Chile. Social media promises us a neatly contained, conclusive, concise window into the world, and in these worlds within worlds, much can be said as to how we interact with these platforms. We seek this containment, seeking empowerment in this web of worlds.
The question in today’s age stands: can social media produce a more democratic world?
This form of progress mentioned above is vital, sparking social cohesion and clear-cut spaces for innovation, but is it a fabrication of progress more than anything?
Instagram’s move to squash fake news, starting in May, assesses the truthfulness of photo, video, and text content before it is posted online. Content deemed false are covered with a warning until the user taps to see the post. It is also important to note that these posts are hidden from the Explore and hashtag pages.
The platform is also moving to flag offensive, hateful, and bully comments. Earlier this year, they launched a feature warning users of potentially offensive comments before they are posted. Adding to that, they will monitor captions similar to that that have been reported, flagging them as offensive material before allowing the user to continue their post. The platform urges awareness rather than censorship.
However, a handful of users are exempt from fact checking – politicians. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri’s reasoning for this policy is that “banning political ads could hurt challenger candidates in need of promotion, and that it would be tough to draw the lines between political and issue ads.”
We tend to use social media as an outlet for expression – we see, feel, react, and post. And into the abyss these statements go. However, when false news becomes the weapon of choice at the expense of truth and democracy, where can social media pick up the slack?