Social networking is the interaction among people who come together through a medium in order to share their experiences with one another. Such media where people meet to socially interact are commonly referred to as social media. The term social media networks therefore refers to the media that connect individuals who intend to interactively communicate with other people in a social aspect that involves sharing of opinion and experience in life.
Examples of such media that are popularly known in the current times include Facebook, twitter and YouTube among others which are available online in the internet. This paper seeks to conduct an argumentative writing on whether social media networks should stay neutral or not. The paper will look into the nature of media networks as well as their essence and possible impacts on the society.
Social media networks are free media in which any individual can air personal opinions. As interactive sites, they offer opportunities for people to collectively discuss and share on different issues that affect their lives.
One of such networks that have been recently used by people to discuss and organize their thoughts to a collective voice of defense has been Facebook. An example of such usage was the recent global connection of Palestinian citizens who collectively voiced their concern over their country through a web page in the Facebook social network.
The page which is reported to have attracted more than fifty thousand Palestinian citizens provided the people with a chance to express what they considered as oppression of Palestine by Israel. They thus were using the web page as a means of searching for freedom for their country. The Palestinian citizens who linked to the web page also used the social network to call for a demonstration against the Israeli oppressive nature towards Palestine (Press 1).
The usage of internet social network has in the recent past been commonly used by citizens to react to authoritative governance of their territories. Issues of oppressions by regimes on their own people have, for example, led to uprisings that are traced to social media networks.
Cases such as those that were reported in Egypt where civilians were reported to have used these networks to communicate over the government’s oppression also saw a twist in what was seen as a move to regulate the nature and information that people could pass through these networks (Preston 1).
In the wake of the antigovernment uprising that was experienced in Egypt, there were reports of forms of control of what was to be posted in these social media. Though the uprising was attributed to the existence of such networks as reports indicated that they were used by citizens to mobilize themselves for the protests, it was later realized that the media were moving in to control the communications that were made by people through them.
Flickr, one of the social networks that were used in Egypt was, for example, reported to have removed pictures of government security officers that were posted by a user of that medium. Though the company provided an excuse for removing the photos, it was evident that the company was in a move to control what people posted on the media network pages.
Flickr and YouTube have been reported to significantly control the content of information passed on its pages. Most of the regulations have been affected following the usage of the networks by activists in their campaigns for democratic processes and civil rights in which they use the networks to expose negative acts of governments.
Facebook which has limited its control over its users has on the other hand been reported to receive directives and requests for it to regulate the contents of its users. A minister in the Israeli government, for example, made an application to Facebook asking for a withdrawal of a page that had been posted to by Palestinians calling for protest over Israeli oppression (Preston 1).
Even though Facebook restrained itself from regulating its users in terms of the contents posted on its website, it yielded to the Israeli’s request and removed the page that was created by Palestinian citizens to mobilize a protest against Israel. A sense of force is therefore seen to influence social network companies into controlling contents that are posted on their web pages.
This can be derived from the cases in which articles that were viewed to be unfriendly to some governments, the Egyptian and Israeli governments were removed by the social network companies (Fox 1). It is therefore very logical to argue that the network companies have yielded to the control of external forces to undermine the interest of its users in sharing opinion and information.
The question as to whether or not the social media networks should be regulated or remain neutral should depend on the responsibility of the social media networks as well as the efforts that the networks have been making to undertake the responsibility to the general public. Just like the general media, the social media networks have responsibilities to fulfill to the society that it serves.
It is these responsibilities that the media should be gauged upon and conclusions or recommendations be drawn on whether or not an action of regulation should be taken against the social networks or whether the networks should at times take sides on some issues.
Responsibilities of these media are also essential in the sense that as democracies are established and the media gains more freedom, more responsibility is laid on the shoulders of the media companies in order to ensure that their rights and freedom do not pose threats to the wellbeing of individuals, people or a nation.
The ideal operations of the media is, for example, expected to be undertaken in a free atmosphere in which no absolute external force is felt by the media fraternity. One of the fundamental features of a reliable media is its absolute independence from interferences such as censorship.
For reliability of the information that is supplied to the society, the media should be allowed to present information in its original contents in order to express the exact information being passed across. Governments should thus keep their hands off the operations of the media especially in cases where the government is itself the subject of media criticism or scrutiny (Fourie 193).
The functionality of the media should at the same time ensure that all its target population is able to access its services. Regulations by authorities to restrict the use of a social media network should therefore be considered unlawful. The media should also not be coerced or punished for representations that are not favorable to governments (Fourie 193).
The media fraternity is supposed to develop democracy in a society by creating room for divergent opinions to be expressed. With respect to this, any institution that is charged with media regulation is to be independent of any governmental influence.
In its responsibilities, the media is supposed to undertake measures to ensure information provided are on the basis of “truth, accuracy, objectivity and balance” (Fourie 193). The media should have the capacity to be self-regulatory as well as refrain from delivering information that can incite or offend specified groups (Larking 351).
Social media networks are therefore supposed to remain independent from influence from any authority in order to achieve its responsibility of promoting democracy in societies. Instances like the uprisings that were witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt, for example, were effects of repressive regimes that could also oppress the media in order to undermine democracy.
It is similarly the responsibility of the media to refrain from delivering information that could be identified as inciting or offensive to a group of a society. Taking sides in a topic that is hotly contested can, for example, be offensive to a part of a population thus calling upon the social media networks to be neutral so as to foster harmony between groups with conflicting opinions (Larking 351).
The establishment of social media networks created forums for people to freely air their views and opinions. The responsibility of the media to control itself as well as foster peaceful coexistence requires these media companies to act with restraint in neutrality to achieve its responsibility. The media should therefore remain neutral in handling information in the society so as to avoid responsibilities over crimes and uprisings.
Fourie, Pieter. Media Studies: Media History, Media and Society. Cape town, South Africa: Juta and Company Ltd, 2008. Print.
Fox. Facebook removes page that demanded “third intifada” against Israel. Fox News, 2011. Web. May 03, 2011.
Larking, Paul. Politics, society, and the media. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Print.
Press. Palestinians call for ‘third intifada’. Press, 2011. Web. May 03, 2011.
Preston, Jeniffer. Ethical quandary for social sites. New York Times, 2011. Web. May 03, 2011.