As the 245th edition of America’s birthday comes upon us, let’s remind ourselves of how lucky we are.
With the advent of social media about a decade ago, all of us have a choice to broadcast our thoughts, feelings, ideologies, and beliefs. Sure, we may complain every so often when Facebook takes our post down or Instagram thinks our fitness picture might have too much skin. We might get upset that YouTube blocked our video upload for violating their terms of service or that Twitter suspended our account for a community infringement.
Yet, we can compare that with a recent headline from China that WeChat, the leading Chinese social network, is banning nose-picking and spanking in their live streams. About a billion people use the site and in an effort to crack down on violators, WeChat is banning those two actions as well as putting underwear on your head, showing tattoos, using bed sheets as props, women broadcasting in a bikini or underwear, talking about politics or gambling, broadcasting from venues like foot massage parlors or nightclubs.
What is the right policy for these social media platforms? While we are extremely lucky to be able to connect with new friends or reconnect with old ones, there is a dark side to social media as well. We’ve seen the devastating effects of cyberbullying on nearly everyone from celebrities to teenagers. Some posts have encouraged suicide, while others, have led to overall insurrection. Some posts have spread around falsehoods, while others have destroyed one’s reputation. The divisiveness of social media has led to a rift in the fabric of American society.
We all have different backgrounds and various upbringings and what might be okay in one household might be considered offensive in another. There was the Charlie Hebdo shooting a few years ago that illustrates this point (quick note: depicting the prophet Mohammed is against Islamic law, and the illustrators drew Mohammed in a cartoon fashion).
Is there a one-size-fits-all policy that can encompass all situations? The 45th US president was banned from all social media after the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The former president will continue to be banned for the next two years according to Facebook policy at which time they will revisit whether or not to let him back on the platform.
According to Facebook’s Community Standards guidelines, they are looking to ban any kind of “violence and criminal behavior”, which includes terrorism, murder, hate, and human trafficking, “safety,” which includes bullying, child exploitation, and private information, “objectionable content”, which, while broad, includes nudity, hate speech, and graphic violence, “integrity and authenticity”, which includes spam, misrepresentation, and false news (but not satire), “respecting intellectual property” rights, and “content related” requests.
Obviously the Facebook guidelines are much looser than those of WeChat. Yet is that better? The mantra of “ask for forgiveness than permission” is one that Mark Zuckerberg adheres to (as shown by his numerous testimonies in front of Congress), while the WeChat model is to ask permission before you do anything. Does the former lead to greater innovation while the latter stifles it? What should the policy for social media be? Laissez Faire? How can we treat everyone fairly, whether or not you hold public office, are an influencer, or a private citizen? Are you simply un-lucky if you get banned?
Well the rules for social media for influencers at least are as follows: We know to disclose our partnerships per the US FTC rules and to adhere to the GDPR for privacy. We also know to highlight brands in a positive light or refuse opportunities if we cannot. We also know how to gain followers and ignore trolls. Or do we?
Let us know your thoughts via email. And let’s not forget, Happy Birthday America. Here’s to another 245! Can you imagine what it was like 245 years ago? No electricity, no computers, no cars, no Facebook or Instagram, no concerts, no crypto, no influencers! We are exceedingly lucky to be living in the time we are!