When in your lifetime has digital media been such a hot topic of conversation?
If you are reading this column, you obviously read MediaPost, so media has always been a hot topic for you. But here I’m referencing the media conversation on the daily news. If you watch the evening news you’ll see stories that are focused on Facebook, Twitter, data privacy laws and ransomware attacks. Digital media is the topic du jour, but not necessarily for all the right reasons.
Facebook recently announced it was blocking Donald Trump for two more years, or until he no longer presents a “risk to public safety.” He was also banned from Twitter with no sign of reinstatement. Social media is taking steps to also censor, label or ban other public figures when they represent a risk to public safety.
In Florida, the legislature passed a bill that penalizes tech companies for “deplatforming” politicians. This is a bill which is 100% counter to what Facebook and Twitter are doing, but does Florida have any leverage against Facebook or Twitter? I don’t think so.
It comes as no surprise that we are seeing this kind of back and forth play out as a result of what happened in the last election and since then. There is still a divide in the country, even if it is no longer as vitriolic as it was this time last year.
If you watch the news you can also see stories covering the various legislation being proposed in different parts of the country to further limit the ways tech companies leverage customer data. Virginia is leading the pack, but other states are coming hot on their heels, and the federal legislature is getting back into the act as well. Apple released its new iOS, which effectively stops companies like Facebook from accessing your data without your consent.
Meanwhile Facebook is running TV ads that say it supports more legislative regulation around technology and data use. Strategically it is difficult to reconcile Facebook running ads supporting regulation that will hurt their ability to deliver targeted ads. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
To cap it all off, we see ransomware attacks that have crippled the supply chains for gas, meat and more in recent weeks. Ransomware is not a topic that was on the mind of most Americans and while it is not directly a digital media topic, it is an offshoot because it involves email, data privacy and similar topics to the ones discussed in social media platform management.
What does all of this mean for digital media?
I can’t say for certain. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that social media platforms are going to become managed and regulated like media platforms. The division in our country is going to lean toward a more conservative legislative approach and we will see free speech become a battleground that results in legislation banning deplatforming becoming widely adopted.
For better or worse, free speech enables a lot of bad actors to get their message out into the public. On the flip side, social media will no longer be able to use our data against us, and those bad actors will not be sure who they are reaching. That means bad actors with a wider platform could, in turn, be quieted faster by the masses.
When bad actors are able to speak to like-minded groups of people with a predisposition toward their topics, they gain steam. When they are forced to speak to a wider group, they peter out and get quieted quickly because the majority sees them for what they truly are. If they fail to gain steam, people will understand they were never truthful to begin with. Bad ideas don’t grow when you shine the light of day on them.
There is a world where deplatforming is not accepted and data privacy is the ruling law of the land, meaning a broader reach, less-targeted internet rules the day. It will be interesting to see if this is one way things pan out.