With the US Presidential election rapidly approaching, social media companies are scrambling to eliminate interference on their platforms. Both Twitter and Facebook, the two main players, have made changes to their policies and practices.
Some months ago, Twitter decided to ban all political ads. More recently, Twitter enforced its policies more consistently when it started to attach messages and notifications to some of President Trump’s tweets. This was to alert other users that the tweets contained disinformation.
Facebook had a different approach by allowing political ads to run. However, Facebook recently announced that political ads will be banned from the platform one week before election. Additionally, Facebook has a Voting Information site to provide people with facts about how/where to vote in their State.
Will any of this make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.
My impression is that social media companies are playing a giant game of Whac-a-Mole IRL (i.e., in real life). They are constantly catching up and creating “fixes” reactively.
The election has been a problem for social media companies since the 2016 Presidential election, likely even before. Initially M. Zuckerberg denied that Facebook influenced the election. He soon acknowledged the inherent power of a social media platform to reach billions of people. The control given to users to post what they want, e.g., misinformation/disinformation/information, put Facebook in a challenging position. How could they control the content? Should this be their responsibility?
This is in addition to all the other types of challenges facing the global social media platforms such as how to control global language or manage the “infodemic“. Without proper foresight, the companies only react instead of planning adequately for these types of scenarios.
Why Aren’t Social Media Companies More Proactive?
It’s interesting to consider how social media companies ended up in these positions. My guess is there was too much ego and not enough imagination or cynicism in the initial brainstorming sessions. Perhaps the companies didn’t hire enough post-apocalyptic sci-fi enthusiasts who could have predicted some of these scenarios happening.
Honestly, I was shocked so many years ago when Zuckerberg initially denied Facebook played a role in the 2016 Presidential election.
People put their faith so blindly in technology and the internet, that it will only be used for good. However, since the internet’s inception, it has always had a “dark” side. Going forward, all of these aspects need to be considered ahead of time.