What’s the Future of Social Networks?

Governments who have typically been behind industry and civilian needs with digital and technological governance, are now progressing with debate, cultural alignment and implementation of laws to regulate the handling of user-generated content by Social Networks and other platforms.  Indeed, the ethical balance between free speech and preventing harmful content, such as inciting violence, defamation and online harms leading to abuse, safety issues or loss of life, is key.  In August 2018, on Channel 4 news, I talked about the need for both policies and regulations, in light of events with Infowars, which included a defamation case later won by families of the ‘Sandy Hook’ tragedy.  There has to be a cultural shift, in what civilians accept as harmful content, while enabling us all to speak freely about political and religious views.  The success of this is largely enabled through education. Such education along with regulation, may come in the form of leading by example. That is, demonstrating punitive actions for individuals who put lives at risk, alongside enabling debate around whether individuals should be banned from platforms.  The recent Elon Musk ‘Doxing’ incident on Twitter, is an example of a seemingly open stalking account, and the reporting of the story by journalists. The suspending of those accounts by Elon Musk, enabled a debate.  Clearly the suspension of the journalists accounts wasn’t the right choice, but the suspension of the doxing account was.  At the same time, offensive content isn’t amplified by the social network, essentially allowing individuals to express themselves but without the amplification, which is where the danger lies.  This is an example of the fine tuning of social media which will eventually lead to it coming of age. For this to occur however, we need to ensure that rules and standards are not a case ‘of one rule for one, and another rule for another’. It cannot be a rule that suits social network owners, or single-sided political motivations and alliances, but must be judged and led with independence, commitment, and impartiality.

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About the Author

Deborah Collier is a senior strategic and futurist leader in business, digital and education. She is a media group CEO, Non-Executive Director and President of Digital Skills Authority. She developed a ‘Digital Governance Framework‘ which is delivered throughout the organisation’s management and leadership programs, and used by boards and leadership teams at governments and blue-chips organisations around the globe.