“The lowest form of popular culture—lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives—has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage.”
Russian actors and their co-conspirators were recently exposed for the role they played in the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump. As a result, the role social media platforms played in providing Russian actors and their co-conspirators with unfiltered and unfettered access to American voters in order to spread propaganda and manipulate voter participation is clear.
It begs the question—What are the moral and legal obligations of these tech giants to the American people?
Social media outlets including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook profited in what has been charged by a grand jury as a coordinated attack on American democracy. Yet, these corporations have not only been slow to acknowledge the role(s) their platforms played in helping to facilitate the Russian aggression, they’ve been even slower to take actions to mitigate the future misuse and abuse of their platforms.
Whether it was allowing distorted and false messages from Russians to American voters during the 2016 campaign; pushing a Russian instigated call to “Release the [David Nunes] Memo” or attacks against student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida—American social media platforms are proving to be part-time purveyors of propaganda and facilitators of mis-information, while they continue to rake in millions and millions of dollars in the process at the expense of their often, unsuspecting users.
These platforms are where users most frequently turn to for information and as a result, play a pivotal role in helping to shape American thought. As such, there must be stronger measures to monitor content and increased accountability when the industry fails to weed out illegal activity and mis-information. To date, industry giants in this field have remained somewhat complacent in their response.
Perhaps it is time for the American public to demand more— accountability, transparency, monitoring, and more stringent requirements to eliminate inappropriate and illegal content from its platforms. There is a clear distinction between free speech and illegal or spurious activity—that is why you cannot falsely cry “fire” is a crowed theater.
If state and federal governments will not act on this issue to pass legislation and/or implement regulations requiring greater accountability—the American public must demand it.
Editor’s Note: The Language of Birds is a commentary on issues impacting the Black community. Ancient cultures have a form of communication called the Language of Birds. While often defined as a “sacred language,” it is also called an un-language or a language of un-saying. Too often things are not said but inferred, purposefully structured in order to detract or confuse. This column will provide an opinionated translation of what, why, and how issues occur and their consequences for Black America.
Stephanie Williams, Features Writer
Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.