Social media has given people a platform to voice out their opinions in front of the world. Its emergence brought disruption in the world as a common man could express their opinions on variety of subjects and current issues. As its influence grew day by day, the misuse of its power began. It has been greatly used to influence people’s opinions by promoting hate speech and entice violence. Though social media platforms have taken necessary precautions to counter such activities, their efforts have not been enough. They have been widely criticized for letting people misuse and influence others’ opinions.
Social media has been used as a weapon to spread awareness and information. On the other hand, it has been used as a weapon to spread hate and violence. The constant reviewing in policies to ensure public safety has not served the purpose of social media platforms to let people express themselves fully. State officials in some countries have used it for avoiding criticism against them. Political harassment has become a growing issue which is hindering people to express their views freely. In a recently informed incident to Facebook, a user posted a video criticizing the state officials on its platform and police officials visited his home and asked for his tax compliance. Moreover, government officials have been writing hate speech on the platform, intimidating people who would raise voice against them or have a different opinion than them. This problem is widespread across the globe and it has become very difficult to policing this content. Though Facebook announced that it will be hiring 10,000 more people to increase its efforts on safety and security, the political intimidation would remain a challenge across the globe.
The growing influence of social media gave rise to foreign meddling in elections. The issue came into light after 2016 presidential elections in the U.S. It was suspected that Russian entities interfered by impacting public opinions though creation of fake pages and around 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people in the U.S. during two-year period. Advertising feature in on social media platforms was greatly utilized to expand the reach. These platforms need to increase transparency and let people know who posted the ads. This will make politicians, hate groups, and other entities to be responsible for their words and face consequences for spreading toxic messages.
Research from various organizations state that people have been actively using social media for reading news and keep themselves informed about current affairs. It was found that nearly two-third of Americans choose social media to read news. The social media has been an important tool for news publishers and media companies to expand their reach and grow their audience. Users not only read news but also discuss it actively with other users. However, these platforms have been used to spread fake news and misleading information. This may lead people astray from their judgements. Though these platforms have been taking necessary steps to filter out fake news, users also need to use their own judgment to identify such news. The misinformation campaigns are a never-ending battle and need more help from people to use their acumen.
As social media is used to get people close to each other, it can also be used to divide. The time has not arrived in which positives of social media outweighs negatives. It is spoiling democracy and influencing people opinions. Social media platforms need to take necessary measures to improve transparency and make as trustworthy as possible.