As human beings are social animals, friendship is an essential part of life. Communication and interacting with friends and family are inevitable to strengthen our relationships. As face-to-face communication are sometimes inconvenient and unreachable, ‘Social Media’ has become one of the most influential technology in human history. The earliest method for communicating across great distances were letters delivered by hand from one to another, which is the major communication method before social media were developed. And the use of social media may seemed to be a new trend but it is actually the natural outcome of many decades of social media development.
To start, I would like to give a brief introduction on the genesis and the history of social news sharing, and critically analyze on the who controls and owns the social news sharing sector, and finally analyze on whether it is beneficial on political economic, social and cultural factors.
Introducing ‘Social News Sharing’
The use of internet as a networking mechanism has a deep root in history, According to Stroud, Usenet is a distributed messaging system which was used since 1979, it provided a space/ forum for people to talk about their opinions online. It allowed users to communicate through a virtual newsletter. It also encouraged the use of rich media file sharing. Usenet resembles a bulletin board system, which posts are stored on the server, and this is the origin of Internet forums, also the precursor of Social News Sharing. (Stroud, 2008, p.278)
According to Stroud, The first popular web-based social media site (SixDegrees.com) was created in 1997, which enabled users to upload their profile and list their friends and also contribute their messages to the bulletin boards. This is the first blogging site that became so popular and reached a height to 1 million fully registered members. This achievement can be regarded as the beginning of the blogging style social news sharing- the legacy of social networking service. (Stroud, 2008, p.278)
Introducing Myspace, the American popular social networking site founded in 2003. Myspace has a significant influence on technology, pop culture and music. According to a research by (Connell, 2009, p.25-36) , Myspace has a critical impact on the social life of teenagers. As teenage is the age of developing social circle and self-cognition, they spend a lot of their time developing their friend circles and their opinions. In the research, it stated that the phenomenon of using online social media has resulted in a new lexicon, ‘friend’. It is used in a new way such as ‘friended’ ‘friending’ to show the connection as friends, and ‘defriend’ to show that they no longer want to attached to someone or browsing their profile.
Facebook- as a rival of Myspace, was launched in 2004, the origin of Facebook was academia rather than commercial, which it was a networking forum for students in Harvard University, later become a worldwide social networking platform in 2006. According to Gilbert 2019, Facebook can be accessed worldwide and commonly used on personal devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones. Facebook allows it users to create profile to reveal their information and post text, photos and multimedia with their online ‘friends’. Facebook also allows users to setup privacy setting to protect information of the users as well.
Are we being manipulated and controlled?
As the rise in popularity of the usage of social networking sites and social news sharing. Problems came with it. As companies of the social networking sites own the personal information of the users and rights to access users’ detail, it is important to understand how the social news sharing sector could be controlled by different stakeholders.
Human rights issues are the major concern in this social networking era. User privacy, political manipulation, mass surveillance, hate speech, fake news and copyright infringement are the major problems that we are currently facing due to the development of social news sharing.
According to BBC News 2020, a major incident of data breach happened in 2016, Facebook users’ personal data are being breached by Cambridge Analytica, millions of user data are being used for political advertising. According to Lewis and Hilder in 2018, former employee explained to the Guardian that the data are being sold to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It is claimed that Trump campaign micro-target US voters with tailored messages, data modelling and algorithms to lead up the election.
According to Chang & Chen 2014, personal data on social media sites are being used extensively , not only to improve their service and funding, but also monitoring user behavior. As the widespread use of mobile devices, Location-based services (LBS) are being used to leverage data sets, so that Facebook or Google can personalized the advertisement for users by algorithms. As users post and interact through social media, their actions and thoughts are monitored and commodified.
As privacy and surveillance are two ends of the social news sharing, our data can be used for government’s mass surveillance. According to Targeted News Service 2019, social media surveillance has become a priority for the federal government in United States. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the federal government for surveillance activities such as monitoring immigrants and visa applicants under President Trump’s “extreme vetting” initiative.
According to the quote by Matt Cagle of ACLU of Northern California,
“Social media surveillance feeds the discriminatory real world targeting of Black people, immigrants, religious minority communities, and political dissidents. It’s unacceptable for the government to withhold details about this domestic spying.”
How is Social News Sharing Beneficial in Social and Cultural Aspects?
One major advantage of Social News Sharing is Connection, people from anywhere can share their instant and thoughts with their friends and even strangers regardless of the location and religion. According to a research by Rdhms 2019, results showed that social media can enhance effective out-of-class communication through social news sharing for students, as well as improving learning progress in a dental hygiene program with a response rate of 70.9% within 418 students.
Social News Sharing also enhance information spread throughout the world without barriers or limitations. According to Yuen 2018, a study showed a global median of 42% across countries that citizens use internet to get news feed at least once a day. And within the same survey, it showed that people who are younger, highly educated and higher income groups are more likely to use social networking sites to get news feed.
Culturally, social news sharing connected people with different background, as they are allowed to share their beliefs and religions and also cultural behavior through social network. For example, social news sharing enhance cultural competence. According to Goulart 2017, people can build relationship by creating opportunities within a group for cultural exchanges over a variety of activities, like discussing about subjects of interest, collaborating on common projects, building knowledge, etc. It has been known that technologies can empower human beings and online social networks have created lots of new forms of integrating people by amplifying their connections and the way how they communicate. Faster and easier relationships are now established in cyberspace through virtual communities. This unfold the usual exchange of messages between the participants in a group of people and its cohesion is maintained in accordance with the interests and motivations of the participants, by a non-systematic way, in the dynamics of the communities presented in cyberspace.
ACLU sues federal government for social media surveillance records. (2019, Jan 17). Targeted News Service Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2168130882?accountid=14757
Chang, C. W. & Chen, G. M., 2014, ‘College students’ disclosure of location-related information on Facebook’, Computers in Human Behavior 35, 33–38. https://doi. org/10. 1016/j. chb. 2014. 02. 028
Connell, R. S. (2009). Academic libraries, facebook and MySpace, and student outreach: A survey of student opinion. Portal : Libraries and the Academy, 9(1), 25-36. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/10.1353/pla.0.0036
Criddle, C, (2020), Facebook sued over Cambridge Analytica data scandal. BBC NEWS. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54722362
Gilbert, B. (2019, Oct 29). Mark zuckerberg claimed facebook was founded with political expression in mind. A former facebook exec called that ‘pretty obviously incorrect.’. Business Insider Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2396369936?accountid=14757
Goulart, E. E. (2017). Cultural and educational aspects of using social media: A study with undergraduate students. Estudios Sobre Las Culturas Contemporáneas, 23(3), 27-40. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/1917670311?accountid=14757
Lewis, P & Hilder, P, (2018) Leaked: Cambridge Analytica’s blueprint for Trump victory, The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/23/leaked-cambridge-analyticas-blueprint-for-trump-victory
Rdhms, K. R. D. H. M. S., Gurenlian, J. R.,R.D.H.M.S.PhD., & Freudenthal, J. R. D. H. M. H. E. (2019). Use of social media for out-of-class communication to enhance learning: A pilot study. Journal of Dental Hygiene (Online), 93(6), 13-20. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2385747129?accountid=14757
Stroud, D. (2008). Social networking: An age-neutral commodity — social networking becomes a mature web application. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 9(3), 278-292. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/10.1057/palgrave.dddmp.4350099
Yuen, J. (2018, Jan 15). 42% of us get news through social media? The Edmonton Sun Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2235708891?accountid=14757