Can Social Media Sites Like Twitter Control Governments?

Social media sites like Twitter and others are the epitome of a nation’s democratic framework or are they antithetical to the very basic principles of a nation’s sovereignty and democracy

The answer to this question is very complex with no straightforward answers. 

The recent controversy regarding the Government of India and Twitter has clearly proved that the micro-blogging site is no longer a platform or intermediary to express one’s views, but they also influence public opinions. 

Not just in India, Twitter also found itself in the eye of the storm in Nigeria when it deleted President Buhari’s controversial post. Twitter was immediately banned across the nation.

The question that arises here is who will decide what should be on Twitter or social media sites and what should be not. How can they take a moral position on it? How can they hold one perception wrong and the other one right? 

As earlier stated, it’s not so simple. There are several layers attached to it. 

Last year, Twitter banned Donald Trump’s handle because of the latter’s series of vitriolic tweets during the 2020 United States presidential election. 

Unfortunately, one can still come across a lot of controversial tweets on its platform. Twitter is doing nothing about them. 

Sources quoted that as many as 70,000 Twitter handles, with most of them supporting far-right QAnon theory, were blocked after the US Capitol attack. But who asked Twitter not to block those Twitter handles from day one?

Moreover, so much abusive content and hate speeches are still there on social media platforms. They are still not doing enough to block these profiles. 

As an intermediary or social media platform, you can’t be pro or against any particular ideology or perception. 

Social Media Is Losing Its Relevance

There’s no doubt, various social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook and others were at the forefront when people required help during the devastating COVID-19 crisis. 

The platform was extensively used for sending SOS messages. But we must not forget that the same platform was used to spread misinformation several times during the same period. 

A system of internal checks and balance within social media platforms is necessary to curb hate speech and stop the flow of misinformation or fake news on their platforms. 

Another angle to the continuous criticism of social media sites is how girls and women feel unsafe online. 

Amnesty International has reported that several women and girls are subjected to inhumane online trolling and humiliation—just for expressing their viewpoints. 

Where are the democratic ideals? Where is freedom of speech? 

Why can’t women express their opinions freely—just because they are biologically different from men? Or is it because social media sites are not doing enough to create a safer platform to uphold the principles of democracy and freedom of speech intact? 

Women are subjected to all sorts of harassment online, including name-calling, online abuses, racism, stalking, doxing (uploading confidential information online to harass a person) and body shaming. This is so much prevalent on social media. 

Don’t forget how LGBTQ people across the world also face homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuses from time to time due to this online trolling. 

Meanwhile, social networking sites like Twitter and others don’t show their moral obligation to auto-delete those abusive posts that aim at harassing women and threaten them.

The Importance of Objectivity And Impartial Attitude

Social networking sites are no longer impartial and unbiased. They, in fact, work arbitrarily these days. 

As an intermediary, you can’t do that. Once you show your inclination to a particular ideology or perception and you start blocking someone’s account or profile while allowing others to spread venom, it is a flawed concept per se. 

Last year, when coronavirus was declared a worldwide pandemic, people and netizens flooded their social media profiles with hate speech and xenophobic comments directed towards China. 

Thus, directly or indirectly, it promoted racism and a racist attitude, which is outright unacceptable. But in the name of freedom of speech and expression, Twitter didn’t do anything to stop or delete those abusive and racist tweets. 

Condemning China for its failure to stop Coronavirus is one thing, but humiliating the Chinese for that on social media platforms is nothing short of racism.

The Final Word

Social media is a poignant tool to spread love, fraternity, and brotherhood across the world. However, they need to work as per the law of the land. 

Being a social media platform they can’t work as per their own wishes. They must behave like an intermediary and get the benefits of immunity or work like a publisher and be accountable for the content published on their platforms. 

It can’t enjoy the fruits of immunity from legal matters as an intermediary while acting as a publisher with a set of opinions, ideologies, and biases in minds. 

The world was there before social media and it will survive even without social media. But no country should compromise with the ideals of law of the land, democracy, freedom of speech, equality, and liberty as enshrined in the constitution. 

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