Fake news, privacy, harmful content, and interference with the democratic process – these are issues that have been raised against the social media giants, particularly Facebook. BBC Technology News described reaction of MPs following the publication of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, who have insisted that: “Facebook needs far stricter regulation, with tough and urgent action necessary to end the spread of disinformation on its platform.”
Facebook has responded that it “welcomed the digital select committee's report” and would be open to "meaningful regulation."
There is a huge amount at stake for businesses that wish to raise brand awareness and engagement via social media. So what actions are likely to be taken by Facebook and other social media channels to respond to the concerns of both businesses and consumers about unacceptable content and the misuse of data?
Policing the social mega-cities
BBI Brandboost has regularly looked at the opportunities and challenges that businesses encounter when using social media channels. Last year we wrote an article on our website that posed the question “Are social media channels cleaning up their act?” and described efforts that Facebook was making to check the trustworthiness of content on its platform and how both Facebook and Twitter had removed accounts from Russia and Iran that had been peddling misinformation.
In many ways a social platform like Facebook, with its subsidiary channels like Instagram, can be compared to a vast sprawling urban metropolis, but containing digital content and components rather than buildings, parks and thoroughfares. There are quarters and areas that are attractive, safe and a delight to visit. There are others that are ugly, dangerous and best avoided.
We would argue that it’s in the interests of a social media giant like Facebook to adequately police this huge digital mega-city they have set up. Facebook’s recent vision statement claims the company’s role is "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." That is a positive message that both businesses and individual users can relate to. But much needs to be done before this statement gains any credibility.
So far, the response of Facebook and other social platforms has been generally inadequate in addressing the critical issues raised by the Commons Select Committee. In the case of Facebook, the Committee’s Chair Damian Collins was highly critical.
"We believe that in its evidence to the committee, Facebook has often deliberately sought to frustrate our work, by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at times misleading answers to our questions. These are issues that the major tech companies are well aware of, yet continually fail to address.”
Looking to the future
In an excellent blog entry by BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan commented on the possibilities of regulation raised by the Committee, observing that “If regulation of the internet were easy, it would have happened a while ago. Regulation is slow and consensual; it is the very nature of technological innovation that it is fast and unpredictable.”
He also claimed that: “The committee has done some significant intellectual heavy lifting, and applied scrutiny to companies and individuals who often evade it.
But such is the nature of digital technology that really this marks neither the beginning nor the end, but rather the end of the beginning, of a conversation between legislators, technologists and the public about how to put the astonishing power of these innovations to better use.”
In the meantime, we would also point to the extensive benefits that social media can offer to business in terms of global reach and the ability to engage with target audiences. As we have commented before, by posting exceptional, relevant and truthful content, businesses can gain the trust of users and encourage brand loyalty. In an environment where fake news and misinformation is present, their high standards will shine out by comparison.
BBI Brandboost believes that in time the “astonishing power of these innovations” will be put to better use. Today, we can offer our clients highly focused social media campaigns that are strategically selective in the channels we use and make the very best use of the high quality content we create for their users.