Social Media has become in the last decade or so a crucial element in our society at large. We organise our lives, run our businesses and order and buy goods and services through these platforms and sites. Our world seems to revolve around the Internet, which seems to have a huge amount of power; a power we don’t fully understand. The power it seems to have is the spreading of information in a sort of democratic fashion where free speech is celebrated. This, however, can be abused with the fabrication and circulation of lies and hateful, damaging comments.
In light of recent events the U.S. elect Donald Trump has opened up a new issue in the debate regarding the dangers of social media. This is a man who knows how to use social media in a highly negative way. The content of his tweets are usually made with the intension of being propagandistic and also prove to be inaccurate. The denial of the mocking of a disabled man after Meryl Streep called him out at the Golden Globes, his claim that he won a “landslide” victory in the presidential election, while simultaneously stating that millions voted illegal for Hilary Clinton are example of how the U.S. President is abusing this particular platform. Not many people that engage with his tweets, unfortunately, fact check and as a result these fabrications spread and are read as truth.
In 140 characters Trump was able to spread false truths and facts aiming them towards his own political agenda in the U.S.. This type of false information is being spread throughout the globe, influencing the opinions and beliefs of our population. Ultimately, the use of the Internet, and particularly social media, as a tool of propaganda is an extremely dangerous one; one that has the power to spread lies, influence the population, and affect the mindsets and opinions of media users. While the lies of the likes that belong to Donald Trump, and even those a lot less politically motivated such as the everyday tweeter, can influence negatively on the opinions of others.
Spreading untruths, problematic and harmful opinions can, most certainly, negatively effect members of these social media groups. One example heard frequently is that of cyber bullying, and it’s effects – depression, anxiety or even suicide. It is not a situation that should be disregarded and many social media sites are combatting against this epidemic through the ability to block and unfollow other users. Parallel to this opinion is the importance of ones voice, especially in a society that is changing at, what seems, an exponential rate.
Citizen journalism allows the events in Syrian and the refugee crisis to be documented, one such video saw a young boy, confused, sitting covered in blood in an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo. It allows the acts of racism and police brutality in the United States to be reported and spread across multiple Internet platforms. In a way, social media supports and gives voice to the everyday person as unlike literature, television and corporate businesses the Internet is not always edited to a certain ideology of restricted. Posts, status’, and tweets allows users to comment, debate and inform without outside interruption, and interference. If free speech on the Internet is eradicated to stop the spread of lies, abuse and hatred than we must realise that with this power to suppress, in the wrong hands, leads to the suppression and silencing of truth.
Streep, Meryl. ‘Meryl Streep powerful speech at the Golden Globes (2017)’. Youtube, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV8tsnRFUZw