By Alan Keane, Account Manager
Unless you exclusively follow cat video accounts, a three second scroll down your Twitter feed will likely show you an array of views across the spectrum of debate, from far left to far right. Everyone can have an opinion, as long as they express it in 280 characters or less.
On the surface, that’s a nice idea. Freedom of speech is important. Unfortunately sometimes freedom of speech is confused with the supposed right to peddle inflammatory, hateful rhetoric with impunity. So-called commentators use social media to promote ideological agendas, which they either believe in themselves or, worse, believe that there is money to be made.
Unchecked, they are allowed spout their views to the masses, where many subscribe to their diatribes as a result of their own perceived disenfranchisement in society, a lack of critical thinking, or simply the delight in discovering that others share (or at least voice) their own anti-immigrant, racist or homophobic views
As Media House International chairman Jack Irvine told PR Week; “(social media is being) used and abused to peddle fake news.
“One is very aware of all of the anti-immigration rhetoric and pro-white supremacy rhetoric on social media.
"Social media has provided this weapon and there are a lot of companies not afraid to use it.
(Social media companies) have a responsibility to better monitor their platforms. What would happen if The Times produced vile propaganda and made it up? They would be hammered and could be done for libel and come up before various regulators," concluded Irvine.
Therein lies the crux. While newspapers are (for the most part) subject to rigorous libel laws, social media is a free for all, where the President of the United States can spew anti-immigrant rhetoric and rile up his supporters. Where supporters of a certain failed Irish presidential candidate can threaten violence against those who disagree with them. Social media companies have traditionally been slow to ban accounts, with the likes of Katie Hopkins and the aforementioned failed Irish presidential candidate still given a platform from which to promote hate.
Of course social media isn’t all bad. While social media companies may be slow to hold individuals accountable, other individuals are not. You just have to witness the work of Alexandria Ocazio Cortez and many others in response to Donald Trump, or see the tireless efforts to challenge the rhetoric of the failed Irish presidential candidate. Social media can be a force for good.
Ideally however, it would just be for cat videos. Nobody can argue over cat videos.