DoSocial Media Platforms Provide a Valuable Outlet for Free Expression,or Do they Allow Users to Insult, Bully, and Threaten others withoutAny Fear of Punishment?
Socialmedia refers to applications that allow their users to develop andshare content or participate in networking. Examples of thesewebsites include applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,Snapchat, and 2go among others. Social media platforms areconsideredthe future of communication the internet-based toolsimprove and make the sharing of information more effective. Socialmedia applications have made it possible to share content such astexts, audios, photos, and general information faster among theusers. The significance of social media is not only relevant toregular internet users but also benefits business people who use theplatform for marketing purposes. Despite the numerous benefits ofsocial media applications, the platforms have created a huge amountof unedited information that promotes immorality, bullying, andunfounded threats. Such social media platforms have also made it easyto spread false information since no verification is needed beforeposting any content. Social media has created a group of individualswho hide under pseudo accounts and use them to insult and bullypeople that they feel do not conform to certain standards. Havesocial media platforms created a menace by providing a platform forpeople to bully, threaten, and insult others without any guidelinesprovided to ensure that they are punished? It is clear that socialmedia platforms have not put in place rules that govern sharing ofinformation or ways of punishing bullies, thus creating avenues forbullies to thrive.
Socialmedia channels refuse to take responsibility of what their users poston their sites. The communication decency act stipulates that socialmedia websites cannot be held accountable for what is posted on theirsites it is one of the reasons why social media websites are seen ascollaborators to cyber bullies. Cyber bullying is the situation wherean individual is threatened, embarrassed, and tormented by anotherperson using interactive sites such as Facebook and Instagram(Whittaker and Kowalski 15). Recently, there have been cases whereindividuals have committed suicide since they could not take thebullying anymore. It is unfortunate when a person takes his/her lifebut even more unbearable to know that the suicide is because ofinsults and threats from peers. The National Youth ViolencePrevention Resource Center notes that almost 30 percent of Americanyouths are either bullies or targets (“Youth Violence/ViolencePrevention/Injury Center/CDC”). Before social media, bullying waslimited to school hallways and playgrounds. However, the invention ofsocial media websites has extended the bullying to online venues thatare contributing to an alarming rate of suicides related to cyberbullying. An example of a suicide related to cyber bullying was thestory of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who died byjumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate used awebcam to record footage of Clementi kissing another man(“YouthViolence/Violence Prevention/Injury Center/CDC”). Being a teenagerwho had just come out of the closet and experiencing such humiliationin his new social environment, he was completely traumatized. TylerClementi is just one of the many teenagers who have been victims ofcyber bullying in the United States however,it is unfortunate thatthese suicides have not triggered changes in the communicationdecency act. If the social media websites were to share theresponsibility of preventing the viceof cyber bullying, then it wouldbe much easier to stop it completely. One of the ways social mediasites could contribute in preventing cyber bullying is by preventingthe use of pseudo accounts. Individuals hiding under pseudo accountscould bully, gossip, and spread rumors about someone else withoutrisking punishment since they used false information when openingtheir profiles. Social media sites such as Facebook have the reportbutton where one can present inappropriate information however, themove does not seem to be effective because the consequence is losingthe account if found guilty of misconduct. In this case, the culpritsjust end up opening other accounts and continue with the bullying andspreading of rumors.
Thepresence of many anonymous social media sites and applications hascontributed to encouraging cyber bullying.Anonymous and hiddenapplications are a menace to the efforts of preventing cyberbullying. Teenagers can easily download the applications on theirphones it is unfortunate that the parents cannot do anything aboutit since the applications can easily be hidden. It is difficult forlaw enforcers to keep track of the sites that teenagers are usingsince once they start focusing on a particular application or websitethe youngsters start using other platforms(“Youth Violence/ViolencePrevention/Injury Center/CDC”). Applications such as Yik Yak,Whisper Secret, Wut, Confide, and Sneeky enable their users to sendanonymous messages or images to other users. Some of these messagesare personal attacks, abusive, and derogatory remarks. The essence ofthese apps is anonymity applications such as Facebook, Twitter, andMessenger enable one to identify his/her attacker but the anonymousplatforms do not provide that. The trauma of guessing who one’sattacker is adds on to the ordeal of bullying. Anonymity allowsindividuals to free themselves from the pressures of the society andmorality to behave in an acceptable manner. However, it isunfortunate that the cases of cyber related suicides do not seem todeter the venture capitalists. One of the apps that encourageanonymity,Whisper has fetched over $20 million from blue-chip funds.It is sad that these investors are only looking at the returns thatsuch companies produce instead of thinking of it from an ethicalpoint of view. The startup creators do not share the same point ofview because they did not invent the applications for bullying butfor people to share their ideas in a constructive way. Theseapplications claim that they are trying to prevent the spread ofmalicious posts by pulling them down or using geofencing technologybut the measure has not been proveneffective since the posts arestill causing harm. There should be strict guidelines that regulatethe use and invention of applications that promote anonymity.Individuals hide behind the anonymity and use it to spread rumorsconsequently causing panic and suicides (Whittaker et al. 19).
Socialmedia sites lack regulations that stipulate the age limit forindividuals to create new profiles. In this instance, the sitesencourage cyber bullying by not putting in place such regulations.Underage internet users lack the maturity needed to use the sitessafely (Madden, Lenhart, Cortesi, Gasser, Duggan, Smith and Beaton86). There should be policies that govern the age limit social mediasites should also be able to self-regulate on the age limit. Socialmedia sites have formulated consumer strategies and tools to minimizerisks. Such measures include banning children under the age of 13from using the named applications or creating privacy and reportingabuse buttons. However, there is little evidence on the effectivenessof these strategies there have been concerns that the content theteenagers are exposed to should meet thequality required by childrenservices.Many teenagers get body shaming comments on the picturesthey post on social media platforms the remarks may traumatize themleading to suicide (Luxton, June, and Fairall 196). Therefore, it isimportant for social media sites suchFacebookto formulate strategiesthat can determine the real ages of its users to avoid consequenceslike suicide. Some sites lack the privacy buttons meaning thateveryone can access the pages of underage users (Madden et al. 86).Kidnappers, pedophiles, and bullies take advantage of these platformsto threaten, blackmail, and insult these minors (“YouthViolence/Violence Prevention/Injury Center/CDC”). Allowing childrento access such sites when they still lack the tools to regulateillegal or immoral content is dangerous. Teenagers mostly share nudephotos on the named sites unknowingly or intentionally, therecipients share the photos to the public, thus causing trauma to thesender. Social media sites encourage bullying, insults, and threatsby lacking the required tools that regulate their usage.
Insummation, the paper has established that social media sites allowusers to insult, bully, and threaten others without any fear ofpunishment since they lack the required self-regulation tools. Thepaper discussed three points on how social media sites encouragebullying, threats, and insults. The first was that the sites refuseto take responsibility for what their users post on their sites sincethey are protected by the communication decency act. These socialmedia sites could create strategies that prevent bullying but insteadthey take a backseat and purport that they cannot regulate what thethird party does. Still on the first point, the paper highlighted theplight of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University whocommitted suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge afterhis roommate used a webcam to record footage of Clementi kissinganother man. Clementi had just joined campus, he was struggling tofit in his new social environment, and had recently come out of thecloset as a homosexual therefore, the trauma was unbearable. Thesecond point was the presence of anonymous sites and applicationswhere the users can anonymously send messages to others. It would beeasy to blackmail, bully, or insult an individual when one isanonymous since there are no consequences. The sites that encourageanonymity can also be used to spread false terror threats. Theseapplications claim that they are trying to prevent the spread ofmalicious posts by pulling them down or using geofencing technologybut the measure has not been proven effective since the posts arestill causing harm. It is unfortunate that most investors are onlylooking at the returns that their companies make instead of thinkingof it from an ethical point of view. The third point highlights howsocial media sites encourage bullying, threats, and insults byallowing underage children to join their platforms. Underage internetusers lack the maturity needed to use the sites safely, andtherefore, they are vulnerable to bullies. Social media sites haveformulated consumer strategies and tools to minimize risks. Suchmeasures include banning children under the age of 13 from usingsocial media applications or creating privacy and report abusebuttons. However, the strategies have not proven to be effective.
"YouthViolence|ViolencePrevention|InjuryCenter|CDC".Cdc.gov.N.p., 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
Luxton,David D., June D. Jennifer, and Fairall M. Jonathan. "Socialmedia and suicide: a public health perspective." Americanjournal of public health102.S2 (2012): S195-S200.
Whittaker,Elizabeth, and Kowalski M. Robin."Cyberbullying via socialmedia."Journalof School Violence14.1 (2015): 11-29.
MaddenMary, Lenhart Amanda, Cortesi Sandra, Gasser Urs, Duggan Maeve, SmithAaron and Beaton, Meredith . "Teens, social media, andprivacy."PewResearch Center21 (2013): 2-86.