Social media platforms face more pressure
August 30—Social media platforms have for years been criticized by Congress for a variety of wrongdoings, including failing to protect children, misusing users’ personal data, doing nothing to combat online bullying and allowing violent threats to populate their sites.
A series of incidents have coalesced, making it more likely that Congress will take legislative action and perhaps raising hopes that social media platforms will do more to control themselves.
Last week, the House Oversight Committee demanded that platforms respond quickly to the wave of online threats against law enforcement after the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar- a-Lago.
A letter to eight media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, requests information detailing the number of threats against law enforcement made on their platforms and how each platform identifies and responds to online threats.
Social media companies need to respond quickly and transparently about how they will take concrete action to alleviate the toxic environment or they will increase the pressure for Congress to act.
Twitter is under particular scrutiny after the company’s former security chief filed a complaint with two government watchdog agencies offering a devastating critique of Twitter’s security protocols.
He said half of the company’s servers are vulnerable to hacks and that management has withheld information from the board about how many security breaches have occurred.
This insider embarrassment comes months after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gave explosive testimony to Congress about the threat of social media to children. This testimony provided bipartisan support for legislation that would ban targeted ads to children under 16, give parents more control over their children’s online activities, and force tech companies to create default systems to better protect children.
Social media companies currently enjoy broad protection from lawsuits for comments that appear on their sites.
By keeping these protections, it is in companies’ best interest to cooperate with Congress and show that they will finally take serious action to protect their users and prevent violent threats on their platforms.
Otherwise, Congress will be required to take actions that social media companies do not want that could limit legitimate speech and activity online.