Updated: Dec 6, 2020
War has been disrupted and everyone with a smart phone is on the front lines.
Facebook, a consistent leader in digital communication trends, was invented in 2004. According to a Forbes article by John Koetsier, as of February 18, 2020, Facebook is considered “the largest social platform on the planet,” with over 2.4 billion users. As a consistent source of news sharing Facebook revolutionized how information is disseminated. No longer are the days when news is delivered twice daily by local newspapers and periodicals. Instead, a person connected to the internet with a login to a social media platform has the ability to share links spreading articles, videos, photos, quotes, memes, and other media within seconds of seeing them for the first time.
Social Media Wars, a TribeJournal production released in 2020, identifies the ways in which Facebook enables the spread of disinformation. The documentary states that social media platforms increase polarization of politics with false information. Rabbi JP Katz of TribeJournal notes, “Disinformation warfare is nothing new but the medium in which it’s spread is. It used to be that a foreign leader had to go through Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather to get to the American people. Marc Zuckerberg has opened the gates giving everyone a direct line to the citizens of the world, or more accurately, the citizens of Facebook.”
Asserting that because the pace of information-sharing has increased exponentially, Social Media Wars says it creates a vulnerability in regulating the veracity of the information itself. At the end of the day, social media platforms are businesses that need to make money. As the rate of information spread increases in decreased amounts of time, the workforce cannot keep up with monitoring false information, hate speech, violence-inciting material, and other potential violations of a platform’s terms and conditions.
Social Media Wars spotlights Brad Parscale, Digital Media Director on the 2016 Trump campaign, describing the lack of guidelines for platform creation. Parscale notes that over $100 million was spent on the campaign platform, which was the most in history, and there were no regulations sent to the consumer or campaign. Parscale jokes that he had to request a “human manual” be sent to him after he was told there was no written guidebook.
The Communication Decency Act of 1996 clears social media platform creators and maintainers from being at fault for the material spread via social media platforms. There are basic rules addressing decency, nudity, illegal material, hateful speech, and violence inducing media, but there are no specific regulations for how to deal with these issues.
Frontline, a multimedia investigative program created by PBS, interviewed Rand Waldman, project manager at the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) from 2012 to 2015 in The Facebook Dilemma released in October of 2018. Waldman states a “medium allows you to take disinformation and turn it into a serious weapon.” According to Frontline, DARPA has studied extensively the real threat social media poses to providing consumers with accurate and unbiased information.
Social Media Wars illustrates the dangers of false information spreading on social media platforms on a global scale. It argues that algorithms favor posts that get more shares and reactions in comments and likes/dislikes/etc. Because of this fact, governments, terrorist organizations, and other groups with clearly identifiable agendas are able to manipulate consumers. Even when untrue, emotional posts can gain more traction online.