Facebook is a popular social media application founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 currently having 2.70 billion monthly active users. It has been popular among avid internet users for more than a decade now.
Facebook’s increasing popularity and usage are also resulting in an increase in the content and information circulated by the users. But with this increase in popularity, serious questions are being raised against the company. Many experts are also framing it as ‘the biggest threat to democracy’.
Facebook & Controversies
Facebook had been into several controversies, often involving user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections), psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content.
Facebook’s Former executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world.
Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.
How Facebook Impacts Democracy?
What is Democracy?
‘A form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. Who people are and how authority is shared among them are core issues for democratic theory, development and constitution.’Definition of democracy on Wikipedia
In simple terms, democracy is the rule of government for the people, of the people, by the people. In a democracy, people have all the freedom to select, support or voice against its leaders. When social media giants such as Facebook and several other apps owned by encourage and not restrict hate speech along with suppressing the voice of dissent, is the biggest threat to democracy.
Attack on Democratic Values
Talking about secularism, an important feature of democracy and a vital part of the constitution of various countries including India. The meaning of secularism can simply mean a state that supports or participates in a neutral manner for every religion being practised in a state.
But, in recent times we have seen a violation of democracy by various political parties, in different countries, especially through various social media platforms like Facebook, playing a crucial role in harming the core feature of democracy.
Facebook has been hampering free speech and spreading hate by pushing hate speech through the Facebook algorithm. Democracy is about speaking up for the government and against the government freely but when social media giants’ policies push down such posts, it goes against the right to free speech and a serious threat to democracy.
A lot of incidents have been reported where facebook is seen promoting ads for governments, trying to influence elections using targeted posts/ algorithms and promoting hate against several communities.
Facebook’s Collaboration with Political Parties
According to a news article on BBC News, Facebook played a vital role in helping Trump win the U.S. elections. Back on 7 December 2015, Donald Trump’s hate speech which clearly violated Facebook’s guidelines but wasn’t brought down. It called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and insinuated that Muslims—all 1.8 billion of them, presumably—“have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
In recent times in India, Facebook policies seem to have ignored hate speeches by many politicians. Many Facebook pages are spreading hate openly and Facebook despite having community guidelines is not stopping them.
Facebook’s Role in the Delhi Riots
Facebook also has been named in another allegation regarding playing a crucial role in the infamous Delhi riots that took place in February earlier this year. Mr Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director of Facebook India was summoned by the committee of Peace and Harmony of Delhi Legislative Assembly.
Case in Myanmar
In Myanmar, regardless of freely announcing a ban on an association that has promoted violence and hatred against the Muslim community, the organization’s own inside rules really educated its arbitrators not to remove those commendatory posts. The organization just aligned its inside arrangements with its public proclamations after a request from the Times, reminding us that Facebook’s public proclamations don’t generally coordinate what it really does in secret.
Organisations & Individuals Critiquing Facebook
Talking of events happening around the world regarding Facebook, many organisations and former Facebook company’s members have come out and spoken against Facebook. Dave Willner and Charlotte, once part of the Facebook mission are now outspoken critics of the same.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP and one of the leaders of the ongoing Facebook ad boycott, called the social media giant a “threat to democracy” and said that they won’t back down until the platform is safe for everyone.
Facebook has now come up with its Oversight Board in response in the major criticism it is facing, but won’t play its role before the U.S. elections.
What Can Be Done?
- Facebook should regulate its privacy policies, stop hampering data of the users to create a safer environment.
- Must stop with the profitable but hate spreading techniques and regulate its algorithms to stop supporting such hate speeches and advertisements.
- Stop with excessive ad campaigns for the governments and political parties which are mostly biased, false and qualify for hate speech.
- Action should to be taken against fake news, hate speech or any kind of content that will lead to communal tension or disruption in communal harmony.
- Ban on users irrespective of their identity who spread fake news and monger hate, dividing the society.
- As a citizen and user, we must be aware at all times while using or being present in any social media site. We should always discourage and report any kind of fake news, false information, hate speech or any kind of content that is harmful to society or is against democratic values.
Facebook has been a social media giant and will be the same, at least for the coming few years and will keep impacting millions of users that it has. Even though doubted by a lot of critics of the company being ethical in the near future, Facebook must regulate its policies and practice an ethical way in running its company and its acquired social media platforms, otherwise, there won’t be any hesitation in calling it as the ‘biggest threat to democracy’.