Who should be responsible for stoping the spread of the undesirable content on social media?

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In the first half of the 21st century, the Internet gradually emerged. With the development of technology, such as the birth of smartphones, online society as a new social form has changed the traditional social structure. Social media, as a new mode of communication integrating openness and interactivity, has become the new medium of the modern network society. However, as people gradually gather in online communities, they slowly disperse into small communities according to their needs and preferences. When these communities divide infinitely like cells, some cells will mutate, reducing the negative impact of social media on society. In this article, we will focus on the effect of the Internet on young users who are affected by cyber violence or suicide, the frequent emergence of spam on social media platforms, and the polarization of public opinion due to the media’s news coverage of public events. This article will be based on these three aspects analyzed and make equivalent suggestions for improvement.

Blue Whale by Getty Images

          In 2007, Apple launched the first generation of the iPhone, and in the following year, the birth of the 3G model completely overturned the traditional cell phone communication model. “The percentage of 12-year-olds owning a cellphone has leaped from 41 percent in 2015 to 71 percent in 2021.” (Apoorvaa Bichu 2022) In 2015, Rina, a teenager living in south-eastern Russia, ended her life after posting a selfie with “Nya, bye.” on social media. A police and media investigation found that a challenge called the Blue Whale game was circulating in teenager communication forums. In this challenge, most of the participants in the game are underage users, they need to complete the game list, and the final step of the game will be to end the lives of the participants themselves. In police and media investigations, the blue whale game has created by Philipp Budeikin, who wanted to “cleanse” society in this way. Although there is no substantial evidence that Rina’s death was related to the game. The cases of teenage suicide by being exposed to cyberbullying or viewing too many negative categories (violence,  guns) on the Internet have risen in the past year. “Cyberbullying prevalence rates ranged from 9.1% to 23.1% for offending, and victimization rates ranged from 5.7% to 18.3%.”  (Crosby, 2010, p.24). It has become the primary responsibility of schools and families to assist young people in using their smartphones appropriately. Schools should hold regular counseling sessions for today’s youth to relieve students’ stress. Parents should remind their children in daily communication to protect their safety on the Internet and not to easily trust unofficial news or short video content. Secondly, major media platforms should adjust their recommended ads and content for teenage users and add adult supervision mode for children or teenage users. Such as, google and Youtube‘s youth model, although to a certain extent to limit the freedom of teenagers on the Internet, are based on the safety of underage users, to a large extent to avoid the recurrence of tragedies such as the Blue Whale game.



Screengrab by Jacqueline Arias
Screengrab by Jacqueline Arias       

Users of social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook often receive pornographic spams in which women with good looks and hot bodies send intimate pictures and contact information to unknown users through a chat window. Even if a user reports the account to the platform and blocks it, a new account will still appear, posting the same chat content. Tags on social media are designed to make it quicker for users to search for content of interest. However, some violent or pornographic content had added the most searched tags to attract the users’ clicks and followers. These posts are used to drive traffic to their own or other people’s account pages to commit fraudulent activity. “More than 95,000 people lost a collective $770 million in scams or hacks initiated on social media platforms in 2021.” (Magen, 2022). The Internet’s inclusiveness allows all people to be disguised here, and it would be a terrible disaster when crime infiltrates the Internet. The platforms need to strictly regulate the content of users’ posts and create a shared “blacklist” to restrict users who repeatedly post spam or commit illegal acts from registering on any social media platform. The government should work with the major platforms to set up laws against these socially dangerous internet users to protect the balance of the Internet. This method requires long-term communication and observation between the platforms and the government to develop and cannot be used to manage the Internet immediately. Such a method will lead users to believe that all their posts on social media are observed by the government and the platforms, losing their privacy and thus causing opposition from most users. Therefore, according to the current major platforms, increasing the scope of content review and timely handling of user reports for these spam accounts is an ideal method.

       Amber Heard Breaks Silence: I Don’t Blame The Jury by NBC News


 On June 1, 2022, a U.S. court jury announced that Johnny Depp had won his defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard and that Amber would have to pay $15 million to her ex-husband, ending the five-year divorce case between this celebrity couple. The trial was broadcast live to a global audience, with the highest view of up to 3 million people. While the trial was still going on, the few seconds to a few minutes clips from this trial had already circulated on social media, and all videos were getting more and more views as the trial continued. The divorce of two international movie stars and the live coverage of the entire case was a global orgy for the Internet. Then, in response to Amber‘s speech, many Tiktokers made short videos to attract more people to watch the video by spoofing her attitude and actions during the trial. Even though the outcome of the trial has not yet emerged, “Posters on Twitter and TikTok have overwhelmingly backed Depp, with hashtags like “JusticeForJohnnyDepp ” racking up nearly 3 billion views on TikTok.” (Kalhan, 2022) Emily D. Baker, who has 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. Her follower rise to 620,000 after posting videos related to the Depp divorce case. “Noelle Neumann & Mathes proposed the theory of the Spill-over effect in 1974, explaining changes in people’s willingness to express their opinion as the result of a fear of being socially isolated.”  (Benjamin 2021) This trial in the Internet age allows everyone to speak as if it were a “witch Hunt in the digital generation.” A severe case of domestic violence, defamation was split into a parody and a clip show on social media platforms. However, the Internet cannot strictly control what everyone says, and there are no social media platforms that prohibit the posting of celebrity-related videos or posts. “The decentralized nature of online networks, the bottom-up nature of content creation and distribution, and the challenges of determining territorial jurisdiction with regard to a global network render the Internet environment very different to mass communications media.”(Terry 2019)The discussion and influence of various events are a means for social media platforms to attract more users, and the platforms do not intentionally ban or restrict users’ comments. However, this situation’s continuation will only worsen the Internet environment. As more and more “witch hunts” emerge, the platforms need to take the primary responsibility.

          The core of the management of the Internet platform is “reconciliation.” Schools and families should counsel students to understand the Internet correctly. On the other hand, platforms need to strictly manage the dissemination of spam and harmful information and promptly remove content that is not conducive to the harmonious development of online society. Cooperate with the government to improve the legal provisions for illegal acts on the Internet. Finally, regarding the development of public opinion on news events on social media, the platform needs to guide the online community to reach a consensus on the interests between users and social media and build a new online environment in harmony.