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A brewing storm: On Trump vs Twitter

  • IASbaba
  • May 29, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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GOVERNANCE/ SCIENCE & TECH/ SOCIETY

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Awareness in the fields of IT

A brewing storm: On Trump vs Twitter

Context: Twitter flagged two of President Trump’s posts as factually inaccurate and he retaliated by threatening to “strongly regulate” or “close down” all social media platforms.

Criticism of Social Media

  • Outrage is richly rewarding on digital platforms, which has led to rise of conservative politics
  • Use of social media for provocative politics has led to increased polarisation of society
  • They have played major role in genocides and election rigging Ex: Cambridge Analytica
  • The misuse of social media to spread falsehoods that often incite violence has led to law & order issues
  • Anonymous and decentralised nature of Social media has led to spread of rumours
  • Increased bullying and rape threats to women via social media
  • There are also concerns over
    • Privacy of users
    • Data misuse
    • Political bias
    • Monopoly behaviour due to distorted competition
    • Tax avoidance 
    • Infringing on national security: Facebook’s attempt to launch a digital currency Libra has triggered sovereignty concerns among nations.

What is the current conflict all about?

  • Faced with the criticism of being the platform to spread false news, Twitter wants to increase the credibility of platform by ensuring the political discussion are factually correct.
  • The intention to ensure all discussions on social media platform are fact-bound and decent is laudatory, but no one body can be the enforcer of this
  • Given their non-traditional business models and the democratic nature, Social media platforms like twitter are largely unregulated as it is considered as better for Democratic Societies.
  • The current conflict between the US President and social media platforms is only a component of the ongoing wider debate in the U.S. on the nature of large tech companies. 
  • Big tech companies in US now wield enormous economic, political and social influence on its users that at times conflicts with State authorities
  • There is growing Political Consensus about the need for increased regulation of big tech companies
    • Republicans say social media platforms are anti-conservative. 
    • Democrats believe some of these platforms are easily manipulated by enemies of the nation and accuse them of unfair trade and labour practices, and call for breaking them up.

Way Ahead

  • Some reordering of big tech companies is needed given their rising powers to control society
  • However, freedom of speech should not be constrained in the process of regulating Social media platforms

Conclusion

Twitter did well to call out President Trump, but fake news is an ecosystem by itself and needs socio-political measures to tackle it

Connecting the dots:

  • Concept of Net neutrality
  • Equalisation levy 

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