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Home > 2021 > Social media should be free of commercial income | Mizanur Rahman

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 11, New Delhi, February 27, 2021

Social media should be free of commercial income | Mizanur Rahman

Saturday 27 February 2021


by Mizanur Rahman *

No matter how controversial the political climate in the United States may be, people have never seen a few tech executives shut down a president’s social media access. The decision must be formally approved by the Vice President and Congress prior to taking action. Someone might argue that these media groups are privately owned and can do whatever they want according to the rules of their platform. In my opinion, they cannot, because every company has social obligations, they are accountable to the justice system. Technology executives have ignored citizens and their leader, and have made the president helpless at their convenience. Though these citizens have made technology platform owners rich and powerful. What would the consequences be if the owners of social networks were from a foreign country?

Both presidential candidates certainly were controversial figures and that is not unusual in a society. I believe, nor Joe Biden neither Donald Trump would ever approve such humiliation from a few tech CEOs. It is all clear that the US has lost its freedom of speech under the shadow of tech companies. How was it legally possible to disconnect the POTUS by a few outsiders? What makes them above the Congress? Was it the power of money?

In a recent interview with Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald expressed the opinion that “Google and Facebook get 95% of ad money, so mainstream media lost their ad revenues. Therefore, the mainstream media, instead of doing professional journalism, become activists, for whoever finances them ". The interesting thing is that advertising companies pay huge amounts of money to Facebook, Google and other tech companies, money that is recouped from the product sales, and consumers pay for products. The end result is that tech companies control society, promotion of products, services and the government. Consequently, the society, government and business became dependent and powerless. Moreover, such unprecedented power in the hands of few people, enables them to silence any individual including POTUS if they are not in line with the company. So, it would be difficult to imagine what can happen to a head of the state of a developing country.

People are heavily dependent on the internet, in particular Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Apple, and Amazon. Their income and power are enormous, and they know more about individuals, their accounts, habits, family members, friends and any other associations. In fact, they possess much more information about an individual than any doctor, employer, police and government combined. Moreover, by signing their complex terms and condition electronically, which most people don’t read, you agree to give them permission to be in charge of your personal data, assuming it will be alright. An assumption that cannot be always right as it has happened with the POTUS, FB users, Twitter users. Twitter has already suspended more than 70,000 accounts in 2021. Google, Amazon and Apple removed the Parler social talking app from their platform. Parler - the alternative social media platform favoured by conservatives. I have no opinion both about Joe Biden and Donald Trump but I have concern about the way the big tech companies exceeded their authorities.

The US used to be an ideal country. However, they lost its influence and respect since the participation in military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and many other countries. In addition, US sanctions against other countries have negatively impacted its reputation as a superpower. The superpower that has fragmented the structure of society, coherent laws, trade, the United Nations, the money market, and the media.
The media are one of the most important factors in preserving the social fabric of society. Journalists, thinkers, writers, intellectual influencers have always led society. Currently the mainstream media have lost their identity, income and professionalism because they have been paralyzed by the big tech companies and, as a result, have destroyed good journalism, news and journalistic culture. With the advent of the Internet, it has always been assumed that social media is a tool for the public to allow people to speak freely. But it turned out that this was not the case, it became a business tool to control everything. It is a sandbox in which people express their attitude to something at a particular moment, which is often influenced by public relations groups with different commercial interests, and therefore the reaction can be provoked. We need to change the place of social media. We must give professional journalists the edge in doing their jobs by separating social media from other media.

Citizens have to decide if they want the government to be elected by citizens or whether social media chooses the government. The colossal financial power of social media can be very unsafe for peace and democracy around the world. It’s time to change the law on social media. In particular, the law should not allow companies to pay any amount of money for advertising on social media. The concept of social media should be a non-profit platform and should not be associated with commercial media. Business losses from social media are far less important to society than harmful consequences, from it for society.

How to fund social media platforms without ad revenue, one way to fund is to divert 10% of ad revenue from each media organization in the country to an independent body, which then funds multiple social media platforms without the administrative, commercial or political influence. In the second case, the social media platform can be offered by anyone as long as it does not receive any advertising revenue, foreign agent revenue, and is not owned by a foreign government. Of course, there are many other ways to finance. Social networks are important platforms for the development of society, social interaction and freedom of speech, therefore they must be independent.

* (Author: Mizanur Rahman (PhD) is Senior Consultant - Enterprise Data Integration, Data Warehouse and Ex Director, Data Warehouse, Medicare Australia (2001-2013)

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