by Communications Intern, Hannah Butler.
For those of us immersed in the world of media and communication, there is little debate that social media plays a pivotal and very powerful role.
A place where citizen journalists can post what they want and all in the comfort of their own homes, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram hold an incredible amount of influence. And until recently, the regulations about what you can and can’t post have been relatively minimal.
Someone who heavily relied on such platforms, was former President of the United States, Donald Trump. His every thought, movement and interaction famously documented and streamed via Twitter.
Yet on the 8th January, following the storming of the United States Capitol by staunch Republicans, Twitter made the decision to suspend Donald Trump’s account. Twitter since confirmed that they had done so due to Trump’s tweets violating their ‘Glorification of Violence Policy’.
Outside breaches to safety, privacy and authenticity (which often are only loosely monitored), the boundless world of social media seems limitless. Expressing opinions, challenging that of others, and with endless opportunities to expand our knowledge, citizen journalism provides an important active voice for the public. But at what cost?
Without strict rules, such online freedom of speech brings with it uncensored, unsolicited and often harmful content. Lines between what is real and fake are blurred, and those already vulnerable are easily targeted.
Indeed, recent research has revealed that cyber harassment is a rising problem with evidence pointing to the links between internet and social media sites and suicidal behaviour.
The big question at this juncture is how can social media platforms strike the balance between allowing free speech and ensuring the safety of its users.
After years of putting all their energy into growth, it’s time for these companies to re-evaluate their platform, understand the power it holds, and create discussions about how they’re going to monitor such things in the future.
Communication platforms can certainly be a positive force, supporting and bringing people together, especially in these unprecedented times.
As Biden fittingly put it in his inauguration speech, “with unity we can do great things”.