Social media needs to police itself

Allen Glines

Graphic by Stephanie Wells
Social media has become too reliant on users for controlling offensive content. (Graphic by Stephanie Wells)

Social media websites have become increasingly dependent on users to control offensive content. Their systems rely on reacting to offensive content once it’s been reported by users.

The problem with this system is it lacks consistency. The content that people may find offensive is allowed to stand unless the poster has clearly violated a policy.

Each moderator reacts differently to situations, since they are different people. The rulings can fall in favor of the creator or the reporter.

Even the thought of social networking sites having rules in place to censor content causes some people to throw a fit.

Still, perhaps it is time that some form of censorship needs to be considered because the current system seems to be doing more harm than good.

Whether we like it or not, social media is an essential part of our discourse. For that reason, its influence should not be underestimated. Currently, social media seems to be capitalizing on that influence, even if it’s not always positive.

These social media sites became so large so fast that it’s become nearly impossible for them to address the concerns of all their users. It seems like their current system is a series of make-it-up-as-you-go-along initiatives.

Censorship of any kind is not likely to happen, though. Social media services might try to implement it, but users would revolt. The fate of services that propose censorship would be thrown into doubt.

Opponents of censorship immediately point to a citizen’s right to freedom of speech. While this argument might seem sound, it’s invalid. This part of our nation’s founding documents pertains only to the way a government regulates speech.

A social media service is a product, like any other. The company responsible for creating it has complete rights over it. They can do whatever they want with their property.

If YouTube came out tomorrow and said no more cat videos, millions of people would be disgusted. They could complain through every channel imaginable, but it would all be useless. YouTube would be well within its rights to make such a decision.

The same goes for every other social media service. Yet it seems like they’re unwilling or incapable of solving problems. They would rather advertise how many people have signed up for the service.

The solution to this problem is simple. We all must become aware of the potential impact of what we post online. In the event that our self-awareness is lacking, social media services need to clamp down and generate stricter rules for content posted on their platforms.

Instead of letting user tips go unnoticed, social media  should open the door for users to inject their interpretation into their tips to give them a better understanding of why a certain piece of material is offensive.