Ask Eli Broad College of Business associate professor Anjana Susarla what she thinks of social media and she’ll give you not just a short answer, but a conversation on what she calls social media’s Wild West days of anything-goes content and why it may be nearing its end.
Susarla wrote an essay last month that was delivered by an independent and nonprofit source of news called The Conversation, and since has been picked up by several news sources including the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune.
“It’s true that overregulation does run the risk of censorship and limiting free expression. But the dangers of too little regulation are already clear, in the toxic hate, fake news, and intentionally misleading propaganda proliferating online and poisoning democracy. In my view, taking no action is no longer an option,” said Susarla, of the Department of Accounting & Information Systems. “The very features of social media that encourage participation and citizen engagement also make them vulnerable to hate speech, fake news and interference in the democratic process.”
Facebook is well aware of its possible fate. Susarla believes that when Facebook recently removed several accounts for trying to influence the 2018 midterm elections, it was the company’s latest move acknowledging the key challenge facing the social media giant.
“It is both an open platform for free expression of diverse viewpoints and a public utility on which huge numbers of people – and democracy itself – rely for accurate information,” said Susarla.
What changes can we expect? Is social-media going to evolve and continue, or will it meet its end? As Susarla mentioned, the dangers of too little regulation are a big part of the conversation, but the future is unknown.
“Technological advances mean what used to be extra services – like internet access and social media – are now necessary parts of modern life,” said Susarla. “Internet service providers are facing similar transitions, as the net neutrality policy debate lays ground rules for the future of an open internet.”
Read Susarla’s full essay here.