Problematic content circulates on digital platforms: Who should be responsible for stoping the spread of this content and how?

Perhaps the most effective Internet regulators are governments.


“Erfolgreich im Internet” by Hangout Lifestyle is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In recent years, with the booming of the Internet economy, some problems are coming to the fore, such as pornography, violence and other harmful contents are circulating rapidly along with the development of the Internet. Not only that, the regulation and governance of the Internet are also challenged by well-known issues including the abuse of dominant positions and the exclusion and restriction of competition by digital platforms, which have arisen globally. For all nations, figuring out how to create a platform economic governance structure and successfully control how digital platforms behave has become a very difficult task. Meanwhile, as the Internet’s effect on society grows, many individuals who wish to profit from it or attract attention do so by using a variety of channels to disseminate objectionable material, which draws attention from the public and has a significant negative impact on the social order as a whole. It goes without saying that the relevant platforms and the government must take the necessary steps to halt or at the very least curtail the spread of such content. But in reality, managing this circumstance is not simple. When a government or platform attempts to control web users who disseminate undesirable content by sanctioning, blocking, correcting, and deleting them, it frequently appears that the more they are removed, the more suspicious and offensive content is drawn to them, demonstrating that it is not sufficient to simply assume administrative control by government. This article will go through the significance of internet regulation, who is in charge of it, and how to halt the spread of pornographic, violent, and other problematic content on digital platforms.


Why is it important to stop the spread of problematic content?

“comfortably numb” by Will Lion is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

More and more teenagers are recognized as Internet users as the Internet becomes a more pervasive aspect of life. According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 study‘s survey, kids spend roughly nine hours each day, or more than a third of their day, utilizing media like internet video or music. The typical amount for children aged 8 to 12 is close to 6 hours each day. The average time spent watching media is 8 hours and 40 minutes for children aged 11 to 14, and less than 8 hours for children aged 15 to 18 (Tsukayama, 2015). These findings imply that young people are frequently adept at using social media to connect with one another and form communities. However, keep in mind that because they lack mental maturity and sound analytical skills, most adolescents are extremely susceptible to being exposed to unfiltered and uncontrolled speech on social media, which can negatively impact their physical and mental health and cause serious psychological issues. Young people have been proven to get desensitized to violent media over time through continuous exposure, and adolescents who routinely watched hours of violent television as youngsters were more likely to act aggressively when they approached puberty. Early studies by psychologist Anderson demonstrated that playing violent video games increases a person’s aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors both in real life and in lab settings. He came to the conclusion that playing violent video games promotes hostile cognitions, hostile emotions, and hostile behavior, which is a causal risk factor for lower pro-social and empathic behavior (Anderson et al., 2010). Meanwhile, according to Gentile, director of Iowa State University’s Media Research Lab, identifying pupils who are more prone to engage in physical altercations or bully their peers can be done by assessing students’ aggression risk. He claims that by determining whether a child is a boy, whether they have engaged in physical altercations recently, and whether they have watched a lot of violent media, he can predict which children are at high risk for bullying with “over 80% accuracy” (Kaplan, 2012). This evidence suggests that adolescents are easily exposed to violent content in the media in their daily lives, and that this violent content often affects children’s mental health as well as being a risk factor for increasing their aggressive behavior. This is not an isolated case, but a global problem that needs to be taken seriously. Therefore, it is crucial to stop the spread of inappropriate content on the Internet.

“Social Media Tools” by jrhode is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


Who should be responsible for stopping the spread of problematic content and how?

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, regulating harmful content on the Internet by relying on government policies is not enough. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Internet was widely seen as an expression of the belief that, unlike the radio, television and telephone models of unilateral communication, the Internet could “put you in command again. Government at the time played a minimal or non-existent regulatory role (Milligan, 2015). Because Internet providers and Internet users were fundamentally and inherently opposed to government regulation, they believed that “the Internet is not a triumph of non-profit principles or government-private sector partnerships. The perceptions of these opponents significantly reduced the scope of governmental authority. However, it soon became apparent that there was a lot of harmful information available online due to the prevalence of pornography, hate speech, and violent content. A small boy who was frightened appeared on the Time magazine cover on July 3, 1995. He was frightened by “Internet pornography” and his lips was open, face was lighted by a computer screen.   In order to safeguard the physical and mental wellbeing of young people, more and more people started to call for Internet control.

“Monday Keynote Bo Wang from Tencent” by Official GDC is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When it comes to enacting robust regulatory measures, governments are the most effective Internet regulators. To reduce political risk and preserve social order, the Chinese government developed a control-based regulatory model from 1994 to 2017, prohibiting international platforms like Google, Twitter, and Facebook that which could not be governed by Chinese Internet policy. This action has not only successfully reduced undesirable content from abroad that is impossible to police, but it has also given indigenous Internet businesses like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent the chance to thrive (Miao et al., 2021). Then, the implementation of keyword filtering, sensitive words, and other measures focused on intervention blocking reflect the Chinese government’s regulation of problematic domestic content. For instance, Weibo, China’s largest social media platform, forbids users from posting content with impolite language, obscenity, pornography, gambling, and violence-related words. The Chinese government has also undertaken one-on-one interviews with major Internet platform providers in an effort to control the dissemination of unfavorable material. Most of the allegedly dangerous content has been outlawed by these regulatory measures, and users can no longer use search phrases to look for problematic content. There are, however, still a few platforms that are uncontrollable. They employ gimmicks to get consumers to visit their websites, such as free movies and knowledge, and then embed links to download pornographic apps so they can get over app stores’ censorship. Ultimately, it is because the virtual and anonymous nature of the online world has given added courage to publishers of problematic content. In this regard, increasing economic sanctions may be a feasible way to restrain Internet users by using real-name Internet access, and to impose economic sanctions on websites and users who publish bad Internet information that violates the content of a harmonious society. Although this approach can successfully halt the spread of objectionable material, it also restricts people’s freedom of speech, and the risk of private information leakage may prevent Internet users from freely expressing their thoughts or even convince them to avoid the network altogether.

“peace/joy/love cards” by pillowhead designs is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It should be noted that pornographic and violent content on the Internet is repeatedly banned because there is a certain market for it, and content producers grasp this to profit from it. However, it primarily affects children, whose morals have not yet developed and whose capacity for discrimination is generally weak. Education in schools and families can help prevent the further dissemination of problematic content, in addition to the policy support, technical support, and platform management that the government can offer. Children’s legal and moral education should be strengthened, and families and schools should work to raise students’ cognitive abilities, inform them of the risks associated with sharing harmful content, and help them develop positive online habits.



The distribution of harmful content on the Internet considerably outpaces that of traditional media because of the Internet’s extensive reach and effectiveness. Violent content spread by bad information spreads swiftly and has a poor tendency to do so. If we ignore this scenario, it will have a more detrimental impact on young people. The government is undoubtedly the most potent Internet regulator when it comes to controlling the spread of problematic content since it has the authority to do it. While embracing the diversity of Internet culture, the government should improve the oversight of network technology and the development of the legal system. In addition, schools and families need to take the responsibility to cultivate good Internet literacy among teenagers. Internet users should also be conscious of the fact that they are accountable for the content they publish and click on, as well as the laws they choose to follow, and refrain from disseminating problematic content.


Reference list

Anderson, C. A., Shibuya, A., Ihori, N., Swing, E. L., Bushman, B. J., Sakamoto, A., Rothstein, H. R., & Saleem, M. (2010). Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 151–173.


Kaplan, A. (2012). Violence in the media: what effects on behavior? Psychiatric Times, 29(10), 1.


Miao, W., Jiang, M., & Pang, Y. (2021). Historicizing Internet Regulation in China: A Meta-Analysis of Chinese Internet Policies (1994-2017). International journal of communication [Online], 2003+.


Milligan, I. (2015). “A Haven for Perverts, Criminals, and Goons”: Children and the Battle for and Against Canadian Internet Regulation, 1991-1999. Histoire Sociale, 48(96), 245–274.


Tsukayama, H. (2015, November 3). Teens spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media. The Washington Post.