Hate speech and fake news continue to make the rounds on social media

Facebook made headlines in the world press after the publication of internal documents that showed bad practices that could lead to mental health problems and even put democracies at risk.

The discussion about how social media platforms can increase hate speech, fake news and silence minorities grew in the last quarter when the controversial Elon Musk bought Twitter. All this while LinkedIn was blocking inclusive jobs.

There are a total of 5 billion people connected to the Internet. With this number, we can think that the digital world is a place where everyone is welcome and can find a community. For brands and creators, this means a sea of ​​new customers to engage with.

But not everything is rosy.

Just like in real life, we also face misinformation and digital discrimination. The difference is that this type of content can spread millions of times faster, and what might seem like a harmless action can cause massive damage.

Who is guilty? The social platforms? Governments and the lack of digital laws? The users? What is the responsibility of each of these and how can we, marketers and members of society, contribute to building a better social media environment?

Platform disputes

Do you remember that Facebook had to change the name of its organization to Meta?

This happened at the end of last year, just after the documents of the famous Facebook Papers Scandal were leaked . We saw a lot of headlines showing that Facebook knew that young people had mental health issues when using Instagram due to the comparison of aesthetic standards, and the company did nothing.

The same documents showed us that Facebook prioritized content that irritated people in the feed just because it got more engagement and kept them on the platform longer. Furthermore, the newspapers showed that Facebook knew it was creating political divisions that even led to wars in developing countries. Again, it did nothing.

“Company leaders know how to make Facebook and Instagram more secure and they don’t make changes because they prioritized their huge profits,” Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who leaked the documents to the press, told Congress.

Twitter also had its own controversies. The social media pioneer was acquired by billionaire Tesla owner Elon Musk for $44 billion just after conducting a survey asking his followers if they thought the tool respected “free speech.”

Freedom of expression is an important pillar and foundation of democracy. But the problem with Musk is that he has a controversial version. He defends that everyone can publish what they want regardless of the problems it brings to society, such as violence against minorities and the death of anti-vaxxers.

He himself has already made posts against vaccines, “jokes” with Hitler and was not censored by Twitter’s policies before buying it, which shows that the platform does not have the best moderation or intention to moderate all harmful posts.

And that Musk compared Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to Joseph Stalin for having some moderation policies.

What will happen to Twitter now that Musk promises “free speech”, according to his misrepresented vision, to one of the most famous social media platforms?

A similar controversial view of “free speech” was seen in the attitude of LinkedIn.

The case occurred in Brazil. The platform was blocking affirmative jobs for Afro-descendants and indigenous people. When asked, the company said that “people with the same talents should have access to the same opportunities”, indicating that promoting the inclusion of people without opportunities is a kind of “discrimination” against those who do not suffer prejudice.

This led to a lot of discussion, including the positioning of global companies and the initiation of government investigations against LinkedIn. In the end, the company took a step back and changed its policies for Latin America.

Are social networks a safe place for minorities?

Social media platforms are businesses. That’s not a problem. The problem is when services like Facebook, Twitter and others try to make more profit by involving users as much as possible, without taking into account the mental problems that could arise from informational exposure and providing access to content that could generate violence in the real world.

It is difficult to think of an inclusive place within social networks. Fortunately, things are starting to change.

Pinterest is an example of a social network that seems to go against the grain, with a less invasive algorithm and a much greater concern for the inclusion, diversity and well-being of its users.

The social channel recently launched a new policy to ban misinformation about the climate crisis on the platform, showing commitment to combat misinformation and take responsibility for climate change.

After the scandal, Meta for Business changed its policies and began denying ads in “sensitive areas.” With this regulation, advertisers cannot use options like “Lung Cancer Day”, “LGBT Culture” or “Jewish Holidays”.

Zuckerberg’s company also said it removed 9.2 million posts deemed violent on Facebook and 7.8 million on Instagram.

These actions may give us a little more optimism about a healthier social media environment. At least a first step in the right direction.

The American and European congresses are analyzing the type of regulations that may exist so that the large digital platforms are more responsible with the information that is shared in their domains.

This is all great, because social networks can be a very good environment to find your community. For Giordano Bruno, Pipefy Business Partner and It Gets Better volunteer, access to social media makes it easy to get information about LGBTQIA+ causes.

“When I was fifteen years old, I found little content on social networks. Today the amount is enormous. If I type ‘I’m gay and I need help,’ I’ll find a lot of articles, people and organizations, where I can find information and feel good about who I am,” she explained.

And what about us, marketers and brands?

We talk about the behavior of the platforms and the impact on the well-being of what should be the focal point of all: their users.

But we cannot forget that, together with the users, we have another important part; us: companies, brands, content creators, marketers and advertisers.

Being active on the networks is vital for all brands. That being said, brands are part of the mission to ensure a better balance between mental health, privacy, information and responsibility.

We can use these digital tools for good causes. Strengthening support and collaboration on important issues is a positive way to impact our community.

For me, movements like #FreeBritney or #BlackLiveMatters are initiatives to start discussions on difficult issues that need to be addressed to build a better world. It is not just about raising a flag in a publication, since there are traditional media, such as newspapers, that also have an important role.

In general, we must understand that customers are looking for brands that represent them.

If we want to end biases and prejudices, we have to understand where they come from. For Perly, they come from people who can’t understand how amazing it is to be different.

It’s good to see companies like Rock Content and Pipefy speak out, but also like Ebanx, Boticario and Natura are making diversity a non-negotiable value.

Perly addresses that the first step for companies is to understand if they are ready to make the change. She also explained how they must become familiar with the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion to generate a sense of belonging.

In addition, we are Marketing and Sales professionals, but also people. As consumers of digital channels, we must empower ourselves and start looking for better content that resonates positively with us.

Being more aware of what we consume can improve our mental health while browsing the web and get better references for our work.

It is necessary to address the responsibility of Meta, Twitter and other platforms to have better filters and control over the information that is disseminated in the domains. Improving the algorithm and moderation to display better content is a key factor in increasing tolerance of sensitive content and also having our brands in safer environments.

For me, the key to achieving diversity is to understand that our color, gender and nationality lead us to have different experiences, but that is not an ultimatum for our destiny.

Digital advertising must encourage minorities to overcome these obstacles and negative stereotypes and be protagonists of their own stories.

Education is a powerful tool to change the world. However, this education is not just about how many schools we have, but about everything that helps build our society. If we, as brands, creators and users, start to educate through content, we can make the environment more tolerant.

For everyone.

Both in real life and in the digital world.