How to solve the ‘Politics Problem’ on social media?
It’s another day, and another politician has lied in a tweet or Facebook post.
Before you know it, this off-the-cuff lie has spiralled out of control through message virality - becoming a piece of disinformation that
As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has lined up behind Twitter by saying politicians do not have to follow the same rules as regular users - saying that “it’s not our role to intervene when politicians speak,” and declaring they won’t remove political posts for breaking their rules.
And here’s the thing… I agree with the first bit. Politicians need to be treated differently to regular social media users. But alternatively to the direction Nick Clegg took it in during this policy response, it’s clear to see elected representatives need more scrutiny than the standard user. It is the job of users and social networks to keep them honest, because they clearly can’t do it themselves.
Does this muddy the waters surrounding the question of whether content owners are responsible for posts over the social network company? Perhaps, but it was always going to be a grey area that we all navigated together and worked out answers for on a case-by-case basis.
So, dear reader, how do we tackle this?
The answer is simple. Fact checkers. The likes of Facebook and Twitter need to invest in a functionally separate and unbiased organisation that scrutinises posts from politicians and approves (or rejects) them.
And I can already place a sizeable bet on their response - “we are a tech company, not a media company” - to which I say “bollocks.” The word “media” is literally in the name coined for what the service is.
You started as a tech company, but as a platform that forms the frontline of most of the world’s media content consumption, you hold some responsibility for what gets posted on there.
Let me be clear - that’s not all of the responsibility. I know anytime this gets debated, everybody reverts to talking about the polar extreme scenarios to shut down the conversation. But I’m not interested in far-stretching theories and ludicrous notions like this.
I’m interested in the simple rule that while the content poster is indeed primarily responsible for what they share, you do share some of the blame for the perpetuation of fake news to promote a political agenda, and really should be more proactive in doing something about that.
When it came to anti-vaccination propaganda, you stepped up then. Why not now for the vast disinformation that could harm democracies across the globe through creating insane levels of divisiveness?
The types of rhetoric seen across the political spectrum mean the planet has descended into a severe time of divisiveness that just should not happen - all based around different interpretations (spins) of “fact.”
A fact is a fact. 2+2 does not equal 5 and Big Brother is not watching. Once you accept your responsibility as a private company impacting the public world, proactively policing political speech will be one big step towards bringing some normalcy to our times.
Boris Johnson was 100% wrong to use this sort of conflict-based language in parliament. However, as I am directly confronting a private company over their negative impact on public discourse, I feel vindicated in partaking in this verbiage.
Stop cowering from your responsibilities by surrendering your free speech platform to those who wish to cause harm through it. You can’t just advance in one area but fall back in the other.