Initiatives taken to lessen Social media’s undesirable impact
Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed, Executive Editor, The New York Times, Bangladesh National Section :
It is not unknown to people any more that Social media is acting in mobilizing extremism and disseminating false information. In response to the misuse of the platform to spread propaganda and disinformation, Facebook announced in December 2016 that it would work with 3rd party sources to verify disputed information and claims in articles distributed on the platform (Levin 2017). However, many of these fact-checkers have voiced significant doubts in the success of this initiative as it approaches the one year mark. In addition, Facebook has continually refused to release any data showing the success of their efforts (Levin 2017). Furthermore, many of the fact-checkers hired by Facebook are journalists often work for news organizations that distribute articles on Facebook. This creates an obvious conflict of interest when screening articles with questionable validity (Levin 2017). While it may seem unimportant to put such an emphasis on verifying content on social media platforms, they are in fact significant information sources. Depending on the age, 39 to 61 percent of social media users get political and government news on Facebook (Mitchell et al 2015). Respondents to the survey were broken up into generations and 39% of Baby Boomers, 51% of Gen Xers, and 61% of Millennials get their news from Facebook. Ultimately, if a sizable proportion of the population is getting its news from a media platform with questionable credibility, then many Americans have been unknowing reading fake news. While the wide-spread proliferation of fake news articles on social media platforms like Facebook is inherently problematic, it is not the sole reason that events like the Birther Movement or Pizzagate occurred.
In Bangladesh, Honorable state minister for the posts and telecommunication, Ms. Tarana Halim, planned to propose that the Facebook authorities form a dedicated department for Bangladesh. She said that the country desk would benefit us in keeping abreast of any complaints from Bangladesh and would cut down response time. She further said that the government would request that the Facebook authorities implement account verification through the use of government documents, which is mentioned in their policy. In her view, Facebook should implement their policy more strictly. She added that Facebook would also be requested to provide information on any ongoing cases to the government so that they may be resolved more swiftly. Prior to this, Bangladesh Police sat with representatives of Facebook on the sidelines of the International Conference of Police Chiefs of South Asia. At the meeting, police had proposed to sign an MoU with Facebook requiring that they demand additional identification, including NID numbers, from Bangladeshis who want to sign up at the social networking website. Facebook rejected the proposal the following day. However, they assured that they would cooperate with law enforcement agencies whenever required. In 2017, an attempt was taken to verify Facebook accounts of all the parliamentary members of Bangladesh and it was confirmed by the State Minister for Post and Telecommunications Tarana Halim. She stated that the government has taken an initiative to verify the Facebook identities and the social networking giant, Facebook agreed.
Despite all the problems that can rise out of social media, it is not intrinsically bad. It cannot create social justice warriors, however; it only catalyzes this outcome to reach. It is a neutral but powerful connecting force. Moreover, this process could also be inverted to expose users to ideas, viewpoints, and people that the user would not intentionally seek out. A socially conscious platform could intentionally expose its users to opposing viewpoints and new ideas. In addition, further measures need to be taken to distinguish objective news media from opinionated news and blogs. The current model for screening fake news has proven ineffective and is fraught with conflicts of interest (Levin 2017). Ultimately, some of these measures are counterintuitive the current nature of social media, however they are viable and easy to implement. Then with these measures in place, social media can do what it was designed to do, to bring people together.