The current state of social media seems to be facing an intersection, what ensues next will decide how reliable these platforms will truly be. I have been reflecting lots on how I consume my news, information, and speculation online; whether I am looking for it or it is being presented to me. Is the social media we all are consumed by truly democratic? Who is reliable and who calls the shots? After doing some research, I wanted to share my findings regarding our present-day processes of news and journalism as well as the foresight on what may be coming to social networks in the future.
I began this analysis of our social media platforms current state on censorship and free speech with those that have been banned from them. We find ourselves at a confusing point in time where society is craving freedom and truth, yet simultaneously all acknowledging and accepting the misinformation we are provided. As most know, there have been some well-known individuals being removed from all socials across the board. Where I do understand the reasoning behind these decisions, it also reiterates the lack of control us users have over our online profiles and posting. As a society we utilize socials for much more than seeing how our friend’s vacation was, we are given all the recent news and stories occurring around the world (some true, some false). This is one of the best parts to this technology but deciphering what’s reliable and true is what has become difficult. Now seeing people being removed from these platforms with no say revokes our free speech, why is it a journalist can write a full story on a topic they know minimal about with insignificant fact checking but others with a bigger spotlight do? Reading the question, “Is a person with two million followers less likely to get locked out of Twitter for saying the same things as someone with 100 followers?” really got me thinking. We do live in a world filled with noise and much of it is pointless intake, we need to decide what we consume. When I realized there is more of emphasis on who says what rather than what is said is scary. The larger your audience, the more caution you need to take; this removes the whole point of free speech in its truest essence because someone has more followers, they are supposed to expect censorship? “The instinct is to shut them down, shut them up…” (King et al., 2022). This not how we must go about controlling someone else’s speech. Censorship will not restore the problems of those involved, lied to, or excluded from social media. “Libel has been the last defense… Libel laws are clearly inadequate and puny against the enormity of social media, but they are a place to begin. A new reality must, and will in time, get new mechanisms to contend with it” (King et al., 2022).
A new reality, a new social network… This is what brings me to where we are today and what may be coming in the future to our beloved social media platforms. As most know by now, Elon Musk has acquired Twitter, one of the bigger deals we have seen in this space for a while. Now many do not love this move by Musk, but one thing users have connected lots too is citizens journalism. As someone working in the crypto space, more than 90% of my news/information comes from Twitter. Of course, there are unethical and dishonest actors in this space but when you move past them, we are able to gather the most reliable and timely info that would not be brought to society for days in the traditional news space. I am not looking for revolutionary capabilities from Musk and Twitter but rather emphasis and refinement on the current platform. “The concept of the citizen journalist is that they’re on the ground, ordinary people in extraordinary situations, whether they’re Twitter Blue or not” (Bloomberg, 2022). How does this plan get put into place though? Musk shared via Twitter how he loves the platform and its ability to “… disseminate news without an establishment bias” (Musk, 2022). A concept, I had not heard much of until recently but Musk being somewhat in tap with the crypto space understands the high-quality content being produced on Twitter and spoke briefly on it in a Twitter Space that I was in (very cool experience). Each day, we are flooded with misinformation and influential posts that carry much more weight in our mind than we realize. Elon has taken notice to this and has shared his vision for the platform, and I believe there is something special that could be built. As of today, Elon has been trying to formulate a plan to effectively instill a new way of verification for the platform. His recent attempt to change the requirements for Twitter Blue by offering a paid verification in which relies on users acting honestly. Now this received plenty of flack as it appeared more as an economic stunt but nevertheless it is giving the power to regular joes to contribute. (HT, 2022) Musk tweeted, “As Twitter pursues the goal of elevating citizen journalism, media elite will try everything to stop that from happening.” Following this, he does share that “Mainstream media will still thrive, but increased competition from citizens will cause them to be more accurate, as their oligopoly on information is disrupted”(Musk, 2022). With all this being said, I understand both sides respective views, as someone who recently witnessed the false news coming from well-respected sources as the people on the “ground” discussed the real true it was wild to see how mainstream media jumps to conclusions just as fast as the next person.
Taking this all into account, we are at an interesting time for social platforms with regards to censorship, freedom of speech and honesty online. I am thrilled for the growth we will see with respect to citizens journalism and its contribution to effective truthful news deployment. There is still a lot of work to be done but I see Elon’s plan for Twitter and free speech as a positive for our platforms.
Atske, S. (2022, October 6). The role of alternative social media in the news and information environment. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2022/10/06/the-role-of-alternative-social-media-in-the-news-and-information-environment/
Bloomberg, G. R. |. (2022, November 24). Elon Musk must preserve Twitter’s most vital function – citizen journalism. Business Standard News. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/elon-musk-must-preserve-twitter-s-most-vital-function-citizen-journalism-122112400132_1.html
Elon Musk on ‘citizen journalism’ and ‘oligopoly on information’ in fresh tweet. Hindustan Times. (2022, November 12). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/business/elon-musk-on-citizen-journalism-and-oligopoly-on-information-in-fresh-tweet-101668225522284.html
Elon Musk, 2022. Quoted Tweets via Twitter
King, L., Williams, R., & Clay, G. (2022, May 19). Censorship isn’t the solution to social media’s ills. InsideSources. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://insidesources.com/censorship-isnt-the-solution-to-social-medias-ills/
MacCarthy, M. (2022, October 12). Government efforts to censor social media should be transparent. Forbes. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2022/10/05/government-efforts-to-censor-social-media-should-be-transparent/?sh=48f7036270cf