Criticism for the way social media, and the internet in general, as to how terrorists and other extremists use it isn’t anything new.
Facebook was blamed back in 2014 for failing to pass on information that could have helped prevent the murder of a British soldier by Islamist terrorists. The London attacks from Saturday has renewed the criticism, specifically from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
It is difficult for companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google to eliminate extremists from using their platforms. YouTube alone has over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute (they’re all Nickelback). Usually, the only way these companies can be made aware of hostile content is when users bring it to their attention. I’m sure those notifications are lumped in with each complaint a user sends that someone hurt their feelings in a debate of Pearl Jam versus Incubus (Pearl Jam is better).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last month that his company will add 3,000 employees to scrub harmful content from the network. The director of policy at the media giant says they want “Facebook to be a hostile environment for terrorists.” So basically they want Facebook to treat terrorists like it does the casual user.
May wants to tighten Internet regulation in order to deny terrorists a tool for planning attacks and spreading extremism. That’s where things get tricky when it comes to free speech in open societies. Do you really want Donald Trump deciding what is extreme?
Social media is very friendly to extremists. Whether those extremists are jihadists, conspiracy theorists pushing a story about Hillary Clinton murdering people and selling child-sex-slaves out of a pizza parlor, or Nazis sharing links to Breitbart (tell your uncle to stop that). Facebook is annoying enough with pictures of vacations (yay, you’re living so well!), people who are determined to show you what they’re eating every day (A friend actually posted a photo of Cheerios last week), and yeah….cat pictures. Dog pictures and their crazy antics are always acceptable. Your cat is boring.
While Facebook is great for keeping up with old friends from high school that you’ll never see in the flesh ever again, it annoys the hell out of me by giving me a notification every time a friend is conducting a live video, or when I’m added to a group I never had the intention of joining. I have thousands of “friends.” I don’t need this crap.
I do believe companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, are better at regulating their content, as sucky as they may be, than the government. The internet is a place for ideas, even bad ones. If you own a platform then you have the right to decide what stays and what is trashed. I don’t think we need new laws making those decisions for us.
Just as a business can reject your patronage, media giants have the right to deny you service on their platforms. Their judgement is better than the government. That’s good for you, me, and Mr. Whiskers Kills.
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