Should social media censor or fact-check?

One of the most confusing and most controversial topics of the social media era. Will this finally lead to internet regulation?

Should social media censor or fact-check?

Social media's intention was always to serve as an infrastructure for content. Let us not fool ourselves, behind the very generous infrastructure willing to host your content for free is a scheme to monetize it. Nonetheless, social media became the modern-day freedom-of-speech platform. Maybe a better question to ask would be, who does the internet belong to?


Bringing the focus back to social media, Twitter has recently started fact-checking some posts, even entire accounts of specific prominent individuals. Twitter, like Facebook and Youtube, is an American company. As an American company, one would think they would be careful in navigating any policy in regards to freedom-of-speech. But social media companies, regardless of its origin, are bound by laws of every country they are made available to. Or are they? Internet neutrality aside, what are the responsibilities of a social media company? They are almost always left to their own devices, especially when it comes to censorship. Besides the obvious, which includes but are not limited to child pornography and gore videos, there is no real reason to prevent anyone from writing what they want online. Since the companies are American, to begin with, countries outside of the US will not attempt to curtail the freedom to say whatever you want on social media. If people protest violently on the streets, the road cannot be held responsible. Which means the only country with the real power to reign in the giant social media company would be the US itself.

Should social media censor or fact-check?

Senators from the United States have voiced their dismay of Twitter's new fact-checking initiative. They are citing how the government does not hold social media companies legally responsible for the content posted by people. Of course, legally, posts have to be taken down if a formal court order or police instruction given. Otherwise, social media companies are to maintain a neutral position. Fact-checking itself is not the issue; it is whom they choose to police. With the polarization of US politics, fact-checking POTUS would seem more political than administrative. Only targeting particular influential accounts, even in good faith, will always feel political. To summarize, Twitter has chosen the worst possible strategy.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a very confusing platform. Groups are allowed to form secret groups, which cannot be searched and are invite-only. From terrorism to racism, these groups have allowed for such groups to organize themselves, piggybacking on Facebook's platform as a communication infrastructure. Facebook does have algorithms in place to focus on keywords and go through content posted within their system, but as an observer, we can only take their word for it. It is possible that under the noses of Facebook and authorities around the world, various crimes such as human trafficking happen within Facebook. Does such a secret anonymity function still make Facebook non-complicit to these crimes?


Maybe what the "silicon-valley' world needs is a definition of what real social media neutrality is. It is unrealistic to expect Facebook or Twitter to police the platform on behalf of every sovereign state on Earth, so a guideline needs to define parameters clearly. It is in the best interest of social media companies not to be associated with any particular country, as in allowing any agency access to its data without question. Just like the Outer Space Treaty, the UN needs to take the lead and enact new legislation for social media most acceptable. Fact-checking is the responsibility of authorities, and any 'dark-web' like features within social media platforms cannot be allowed, for it to be a free platform indeed.



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