Regulate Meta Platforms, Inc.
Regulate Meta Platforms, Inc.
Why this petition matters
Social media, while a useful communicative tool, has led to worrying amounts of misinformation being exposed to large swaths of people, but this issue is one that overwhelmingly affects younger users. Meta Platforms, Inc., which owns Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, has shown that they prioritize profit over the safety of its young users. Misinformation has always been an issue but with the proliferation of people trying to convince others of biases and views they hold, there has also been an increase in faulty information that gets spread around like it is fact. There needs to be regulations put on social media companies, especially ones that have a large userbase made up of young people. These regulations will be enforced by the governments who work with organizations such as MediaWell, a nonprofit, bipartisan initiative of the Social Science Research Council that has the goal of protecting social media users, by ensuring they are getting factual information, contributing to policy decisions, and translating academic knowledge for general users.
A study was conducted by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI where it was found that one in three people are exposed to anti-vax messages, found on social media due to anti-vaccine advocates using media platforms to spread their messages. Anti-vaccine advocates are casting a wide net of deceptive information in order to draw in younger social media users with the exposure to misinformation rising to 46% of users aged 16 to 34. Younger users are also more likely to believe in misinformation found on social media platforms with over 27% of 16- to 24-year-olds believing the real purpose of a mass vaccination program against coronavirus is simply to track and control the population, and 19% believe that Bill Gates wants a mass vaccination program against coronavirus so that he can implant microchips into people.
In an article published by Forbes, Sjouwerman discusses how online disinformation has been rapidly spreading across social media platforms, impacting general organizations. Social media platforms are made to circulate information but they lack the tools to provide proper fact-checking, allowing problems to occur. With the rise of online disinformation, it has negatively affected businesses and employees by impacting supply chains, foreign market sales, and the workforce when consumers are given false information about products. Today you can see just how much false information can deeply harm a business, younger users being the main cause for it. Since the younger audience, consisting of the ages 18 to 25, have a higher presence on social media, they are easily manipulated into believing what is posted on the internet. A business’ brand depends highly on social media. For instance, it has been seen in the past how one negative video about a certain business leads a flock of young adults to harass that business in question. The article states that it is “harder to do business in a climate of uncertainty, distrust, and fear” which is exactly what having little regulations causes.
In another article in a scientific journal, the EMBO Reports, Emilia Niemiec talks about how social media platforms are handling censorship currently on both objectionable content and COVID-19 misinformation. Examples of such censored objectionable content include Donald Trump’s tweets about glorifying violence, particularly during the Capitol riots. Niemiec points out that while private companies have a right to decide which content to keep, such power contradicts the essence of communication networks, since the idea of communication networks is based on the point that everyone can share their opinion. Thus, it may seem to some users that freedom of speech may not exist on such networks, and make it appear unfair to those users. It is also brought up how a sizable percentage of people, which could include younger teens and children, use social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube as their main news source. This could be potentially very problematic, as then only a few big tech companies have the power to control what users see as news in contrast to major news companies, which have more regulations and policies to follow, unlike content on the Internet. In order to combat the “infodemic”, Niemiec says that “Education and raising awareness among publics, including during formal school education, may be one crucial strategy in immunizing society against misinformation.”
Overall this issue is one that is affecting young people especially, so we need to be vigilant and hold the companies responsible for their hand in allowing false information to harm their users.