A couple of days ago a friend of mine, Thomas Eppinger, shared a video on Facebook. It attracted my interest. The video showed brutal cruelties against children. I couldn’t watch the videos to its end since it was disgusting and to me really, really depressing.
Thomas Eppinger – as many others – reported the video to Facebook and all of them got the same response: Facebook will not remove the video since it’s not promoting graphic violence. What the hell must be shown that Facebook considers something graphic violence?
Based on this inspiring moment – that presenting extreme violence against children for propaganda reason does not mean a proper reason for the biggest media company in the world to remove it from its platform – I got the idea that there might be correlating with the increase of violence and terror in this world and the uprise of social media.
The first idea I got is that there’s a timing correlation in the uprise of social media and the increasing number of terror attacks. If we compare the development of the number of terror attacks in the decade before social media conquered internet (around 2001) and the decade after we will see that there are obvious parallels. I do not remember and could not research any terror attack which was not related to social media activities. If it’s yesterday’s attack in Munich, if it’s Brevik’s manifesto, if it’s the tirades of islamistic propaganda of hate, if it’s the beheadings of IS. Everything was and still is broadcasted via social media. Not in any mysterious dark net or hidden from the surface. It’s there on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many others. Accessible for everybody! And if you complain as worried citizen and report the content you’ll get the feedback from Facebook that they don’t see a reason to remove it … Are you serious?
The second idea I got was through social media as a catalyst, terror is becoming more and more a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Among billions of users you will always attract a certain kind of number of people. Even with the dumbest ideas and the worst ideologies. We know from history that for example mass murderers have an certain attraction to a certain percentage of mankind. No matter of race or religion. Charles Manson is a living example for that. Osama bin Laden a dead one.
It’s obvious that each time a terror attack, a call for violence or an instruction how to kill people is broadcasted by social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it will reach recipients who have the tendency to get inspired by it. If we like it or not. This seems to be a matter of fact of mankind.
Based on these two simple ideas – which you are kindly invited to challenge – this house believes that we have to change the policy on social media and the responsibility of its players to avoid a downward spiral that can’t be stopped anymore.
In past we have learned on examples like Napster and many other that sharing platforms (and what else could social media platforms could be) have to be kept responsible for the content they share and they grant access to. Napster violated digital rights by providing a platform to people who stole content. So where is the argument that a platform shouldn’t be kept responsible for granting access to obvious criminal and terroristic propaganda.
In a societal context we have to make a decision if we consider it worse sharing a stolen copy of a Hollywood blockbuster or the video of the beheadings of innocent people or propaganda to attract our youth to commit terroristic attacks. No matter matter of religion or race. A global phenomenon!
From my point view social media platforms have to be kept responsible for the content they provide access to. These companies earn billions of Dollars on data-mining, data-selling, big data and knowing everything about their users. That’s their business model. So who else should be kept responsible to prevent the terroristic use of these instruments today? Who else has access to all those data and earns a lot of money by mining them? If I am renting my house knowingly to terrorists to build a training camp, I am pretty sure that this will cause some trouble to me. Why does this not apply to Facebook?
Today we force any industry today into a legal framework to take responsibility on what they offer and provide. This has to be also applied to social media. If we do not, there’s a good chance that our societies will fail and social media will not provide a benefit but an accelerating lethal threat.