The internet provides platforms over which individuals exchange various forms of speech through social media networks. However, some people also take advantage of the platforms to spread wrongful information or conduct online bullying. As a result, the issue of cyberbullying and the spreading of fake news have raised significant concerns worldwide. It had led to a vicious debate on the best way of controlling such malicious acts. Although criminal prosecution is the best alternative for handling all sorts of crime, it becomes challenging to control crimes conduct over the internet using conventional legal systems. Most governments, therefore, consider using social media companies to help in controlling fake news and hate speech. Given that they are capable of identifying cybercriminals, it is wise that social media become proactive in monitoring the events. However, they should do it voluntarily and thus should not be held accountable when they fail to prevent such crimes.
Hate speech is categorized as a political term and not a legal term since it encompasses insults and defamation. Its ability to cause harm lies in the context of a particular group of people. Traditionally, the term was associated with actions that incited hatred specifically among people of specific ethnicity, religion, or nationality. It poses a significant danger as it can promote further hatred between individuals of various groups leading to chaos. Conversely, fake news refers to any wrongful information that individuals create and spread to misinform readers or deceive readers. Legally, fake news should be defined as unlawful statements that undermine another person’s honor and personality. Even though the two have been present in society from the past, the use of the internet has made them more sophisticated and thus difficult to control using the standard legal procedures(DiFranzo et al., 33). While websites make it easy to create content, social media features such as ‘like’ and ‘share’ enhance their spreading.
Social media platforms should become proactive in the fight against hate speech and fake news by working with law enforcers of different countries to identify, shut down, and prosecute lawbreakers. In 1996, John Barlow proclaimed the independence of cyberspace. In his argument, social media companies should be allowed to operate freely without restrictions (Mathew et al., 2019). However, the current events call for a need for the companies to become more strict and cooperate with the authorities in controlling cybercrime. Social networks operate in a borderless environment that hinders regular policing from arresting criminals. As a result, considering the freedom of the companies, and the challenges encountered when pursuing cyber criminals, the best alternative to handling the issue is a partnership between governments and the social media companies.
There are several ways in which the governments and social networks can address the issue of hate speech and fake news spread through the internet. First, social networks can volunteer to online identification systems point at criminal activities (Bradshaw et al., 2018). The companies can employ the use of automated systems that can help monitor and sort out individuals engaging in cybercrimes. The Companies should proceed to forward the names of the suspects to the law enforcers for further investigation and possible prosecution should they be found guilty. Meanwhile, the social media Company should neutralize all previous content of the individual for use as evidence in courts-of-law and prevent further spreading of the target information.
Social media companies should also provide a code of conduct that users have to use, failure to which they risk jail term. Even though many social media platforms have established the code conducts that govern the actions of the users, most of the companies punish wrongdoers by blocking them from the site. The strategy is, however, ineffective since cases of hate speech and fake are increasing. A possible explanation for the observation is that when individuals are blocked, they open new accounts with fake identities and continue with their normal operations. By introducing a legal element in the clause, social media companies will be free to use legal systems in tracking down those who fail to abide by the law.
The next strategy involves using a user self-censorship software and thus would only involve the Company and the user with no government intervention. Users can apply commercially filtering software that blocks sites based on content. Users can define their moral and social standards use them to customize their social media accounts. The technological tools have proved useful in shielding children from inappropriate content and, if applied correctly, can help reduce the spread of fake news and hate speech significantly. Members of the public will be able to guard themselves against wrongful information, and only those individuals who do not mind the news would be affected. Moreover, it will save government resources since the government will not have to trace the users. Social media Companies will also play insignificant roles since the approach is user-based.
The war against hate speech and fake news over social media platforms is not a one-party affair. Instead, it requires a multi-player solution. Social media Companies can help identify wrongdoers and present them to the legal system. Governments should not impose stringent laws on social media companies, and instead, they should collaborate. Social media users, who are the victims, also have a role in choosing what they wish to hear and see.
Bradshaw, Samantha, Lisa-Maria Neudert, and Philip N. Howard. “Government responses to malicious use of social media.” November, Riga: NATO STRATCOM COE (2018).
DiFranzo, Dominic, and Marie Joan Kristine Gloria. “Filter bubbles and fake news.” ACM Crossroads 23.3 (2017): 32-35.Mathew, Binny, et al. “Spread of hate speech in online social media.” Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science. ACM, 2019.
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