Anything can be used for good as well as evil. History gives us examples of inventions that were designed with one thing in mind but ultimately used for something that hurt people (for example nuclear fission created cheap energy but then used to make bombs).
The Internet, developed to speed communication and share information, was quickly dominated by pornography. Then social media arrived and has now overtaken porn, and continues to grow in use and possibilities. Sharing things with family, friends and the world is a popular pastime which, on the surface, is harmless but now harbors growing threats and challenges.
Want lots of Twitter followers? You don’t need to be a celebrity or have something worth tweeting about to achieve that. Simply pay someone to circumvent Twitter’s rules and you’re there. Want a million followers? It costs only $2450, according to the referenced article. So having lots of followers, and I assume there will be similarities in Facebook, can be achieved the honest way or the dishonest way.
Then there’s TripAdvisor. What started off as a cool portal to share your experiences about a hotel, restaurant or destination is now dogged with claims of falsehood. In this case, it’s claimed, a hotel achieved great ratings because investors were busy posting positive reviews while real guests referenced unfinished building works and similar unwelcome aspects. At the other end, small hotel owners claim that unfair ratings are ruining their business and that TripAdvisor is reluctant to investigate and correct these.
Inaccuracies and falsehoods dog social media sites. Even though they probably account for a small percentage of total transactions, the notoriety a social network or portal can achieve when they fail to do enough to deal with the problem can linger for a long time. Worse, dangers exist out there with people going beyond just using social media for bad purposes to those that are deliberately evil. Young, vulnerable, people targeted by others with evil in mind are a concern to parents and society.
So, what can be done? At an individual level, don’t waste your time and resources following links that may be unsafe. When using Facebook, Twitter and other social channels follow only valuable assets and avoid anything questionable in terms of authenticity or morality. This applies to both adults and youngsters.
At a corporate level, companies must take seriously the threat imposed by falsehoods and dangers. Not just to their corporation’s reputation and finances, but to their fans and followers. How do they do this? There are companies that will, for a fee, review content and filter out the bad stuff – images, posts, video etc. They will investigate false claims and ensure only the legal, decent, honest, truthful stuff remains available for public consumption. Technology can help too, automating much of the volume to speed up review and contain associated costs. Some companies choose to do nothing because in the eyes of the law, they didn’t know and, therefore, can’t be responsible. But the law isn’t moral and companies need to decide if they’re in or out when it comes to social media. It’s a tiger grabbed by the tail. Watch it doesn’t turn around and bite!