With the development of online social media platforms, it has become an integral and relevant part of every aspect of human life. This paper introduces the advancement of social news sharing and how it works, as well as discusses how to influence the use of people in political, economic, social and cultural aspects. It also explores how the differences in social news sharing between different groups affect power relations, and interests in society, and uses my personal experiences as an example to point out the problems this innovation poses for me. In the end, it was concluded that in politics digital platforms provide a channel for democratic communication but to a greater extent political independence and authority; at the same time, large digital platforms often represent economic monopoly markets and the biggest beneficiaries; under the different socio-cultural contexts, people share different news and interpret the same online news differently.
What is social news sharing?
In contemporary times, people have become accustomed to digital platforms and use them as a significant source of news. News sharing is the act of giving a characterized set of individuals admittance to news content using web-based media platforms, as by posting or suggesting it (Kümpel et al., 2015). Nowadays, the ideas of “follow” and “retweet” on Twitter and Facebook are considered as a quick way to spread the news (Reis, J. C.S et al., 2017).
The genesis of social news sharing
Six Degrees is widely regarded as the first contemporary social network (Martin, 2020); soon after that came blogging, social media began to gain strong popularity. Until now, Facebook, Twitter, as well as Weibo, YouTube have served as important platforms for people to communicate and share.
‘The history of social media’ on Youtube (Techquickie, 2018)
How does social news work in different aspect
As an example, Facebook and Twitter, online social platforms for people to establish contacts, has been closely related to various aspects of life over time.
- Firstly, social news sharing is shaped by politics and economics. Ross and Bürger (2014) claims that Facebook as an effective platform for politicians to communicate with the public; also including Twitter, this has led to more and more politicians realizing the importance of social media platforms, more and more political activities are taking place on digital media. On top of that, digital platforms also serve as a regulatory tool.
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. VOTE!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2020
Figure2: ‘Tweet of Donald J. Trump’ (Trump, 2020)
- Social media platforms such as Facebook is a company to maximize profits. As users use social media, their data is also collected and thus commoditized, which Martin (2019) claims is a form of labour. Facebook analyzes the data collected from users to recommend them advertisements from other companies which have established a business relationship, thus constantly generating collaborations for profit.
- Concurrently, social culture influences the content of social news sharing. According to the research of Wong and Burkell (2017), users will consider information and entertainment as two fundamental motivations, personal beliefs and intentions also influence social news sharing. It is obvious that different social backgrounds will lead to different incentives for each individual. People from different cultures and with varying levels of education have particular ideas; this further leads to the differences presented by online news sharing.
Who benefits from it and who doesn’t?
- Facebook allows everyone to have a voice on the platform to enhance democracy (Ross & Bürger, 2014). However, this exchange shows more reflections of the one-way output of politicians, who are the beneficiaries; they use the platform to promote themselves to gain votes. The content that frequently appears on social media in front of users subliminally influences their thoughts, and the politicians are thus able to achieve their goals. It is worth considering for supporters of the winning politician’s opposing side, have their online news sharing achieved democracy? A segment of the population whose voices seem to be being inundated, the people who are influenced by the content of social news sharing will change their mind, thus leading to the defeat of the other side, which means the political interests of the masses supporting the losing side are harmed. On the other hand, gender inequality also deserves attention; approximately 62% of white men get their news through social media (Reis, J.C.S et al., 2017). Women’s right to choose is largely ignored.
- Martin (2019) defines a digital platform as a trading venue where two markets provide mutual benefits. In fact, The group that benefits the most is the digital platform that connects the two markets, that is to say, Facebook connects users with small digital companies, Facebook is the largest beneficiary, Facebook further strengthens its market monopoly economy and expands its business. A study found that FB uses intelligent software to analyse users, such as face++ (Reis, J. C. S et al., 2017). However, when users do not want others to find them online, they will deliberately hide their real personal information which may be false or incomplete, this behaviour leads to the fact that face++ is also unable to identify the user’s real data in detail. Inaccurate information analysis affects Facebook unable to correctly place ads to the right users; this group is then disturbed by junk ads, at the same time, small digital companies are not getting feedback of equal value for the money they payout.
- Wong and Burkell (2017) found that a factor in users’ motivation to share news online is conformity. The innovation of social news sharing is often associated with the socio-cultural context. When a user sees an advertisement for a product online that is retweeted and posted by many people; to a large extent it could be a method of promotion by the product company, the effect may be exaggerated, then the consumer is compromised when a transaction is created. Especially groups that cannot correctly identify fake news, such as those with lower social experiences or lower education levels. The company and the person hired to promote the advertisements can profit through this way.
About my personal experience…
- Due to the spread of Covid-19 in 2020, some international students have to take online classes to continue their studies. However, the Chinese government has imposed strict controls on the internet, resulting in the inability of Chinese users to access Facebook, Google, Twitter, as well as a ban on independent VPN to download (Martin, 2019). This political measure by the Chinese government has caused me many problems, due to the current travel ban in Australia, I have no choice but to study online in China, VPN is an essential tool for me to ensure the access of some websites. Canvas will work very slowly without the help of a VPN; it seriously affects the efficiency of learning. Google is also fundamental; without the VPN provided by the university, I wouldn’t be able to access all the applications about Google, even resulting in unable to study normally.
Figure 5: ‘VPN in China’ (Summers, 2020)
- On the other hand, the connection between the various digital platforms tends to bring me more junk advertisements while suggesting useful advertisements to me. It frequently happens between Taobao (shopping website) and Tiktok (video-sharing social networking). There is no doubt that the two digital platforms have business cooperation, and some of the short videos on Tiktok often contain commercial links about advertisements, if clicked, the link will take the user directly to Taobao. Sometimes I buy the products on Taobao, and when my need is satisfied, I won’t need the items again for a short period. Meanwhile, Tiktok continues to recommend the advertisements related to the products that I just bought while I only want to watch the video to relax. Thus, my need to watch entertainment videos is not satisfied, instead, junk advertisements consume my time.
Figure 6: ‘Screenshot of Tiktok’ by Luyue (personal photo taken, 2020)
In the Internet innovation of social news sharing, the politicians gain support from the public by exporting information unilaterally, and when the news influences the public shared online, the voices of the masses supporting the losing side are ignored. The dominance of men on social media also leads to the ignoring of women. All these prove that democracy on the Internet is not fully realized. At the same time, in China and other countries where the government is regulating the Internet, the government represents authoritarianism; this action affects the experience of online users in that country. At the same time, larger digital platforms can expand their monopoly market and reap the benefits of innovation. Smaller digital companies which have established business relationships with larger companies are at some risks of profit, and users can be exposed to harassment from junk advertisements. Less socially experienced and lower level educated people may have difficulty recognizing fake news and fall into the trap of advertisers, helping the advertisers and those hired for propaganda to profit from it but to their detriment.
Kümpel, A. S., Karnowski, V., & Keyling, T. (2015). News Sharing in Social Media: A Review of Current Research on News Sharing Users, Content, and Networks. Social Media + Society. doi: 10.1177/2056305115610141.
Martin, F. (2019). The Business of News Sharing. In Martin, F., & Dwyer, T (Eds.), Sharing News Online: Commendary Cultures and Social Media News Ecologies (pp. 91–127). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Martin, F. (2020). ARIN2610 Internet Transformations, lecture 3, week 3: A Sharing Ecology [Lecture PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://canvas.sydney.edu.au/courses/25542/pages/week-3-a-sharing-ecology?module_item_id=829070
Reis, J. C.S., Kwak, H., An, J., Messias, J., & Benevenuto, F. (2017). Demographics of News Sharing in the U.S. Twittersphere. HT ’17: Proceedings of the 28th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media, Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 195–204. doi: :https://doi-org.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/10.1145/3078714.3078734
Ross, K., & Bürger, T. (2014). Face to face(book): Social media, political campaigning and the unbearable lightness of being there. Political Science, 66(1), 46–62. doi:10.1177/0032318714534106
Wong, L. Y.C., & Burkell, J. (2017). Motivations for Sharing News on Social Media. #SMSociety17: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Social Media & Society, Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 57, 1–5. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3097286.3097343