MCO 426

Our Digital Media Future

photo by Beriah Grier

The actions of leadership of two prominent social media platforms have produced much ire across the digital landscape. Elon Musk  acquired Twitter in 2022 and to many people’s chagrin, reduced the amount of  content censorship  that the platform had previously maintained under the banner of free speech. As a result of this and other changes, many long-time users have exited the app for other options.  In 2023, Reddit added prices and stipulations  to third-party apps that wanted to be associated with their interface. Many subreddits went private in protest to try and bring light to and prevent some of the new policies.  However, Reddit still went through with the changes which caused many of these apps to shut down permanently.  These two examples show just how volatile the digital landscape can be in our world today.

A digital public square  can be thought of as  a site that creates a gathering of users sharing their common interests through content they create, which is reminiscent of people in centuries past gathering in the town square to hear the important news of the day.  Some of the benefits of these outlets include the possibility to form community with like-minded people, the ability to practice kindness and ethical behavior to improve spaces, and the capacity to learn and develop media literacy through research and discourse. A few drawbacks of these outlets are algorithms with unclear stipulations, government and platform over-regulation ( at times), and the constant changing of the digital space as time goes on.

With Twitter and Reddit as examples, it would be wise for the average user to not just depend on platform owners to look out for their best interests. Companies make policy changes, downsize employees, buy out other  companies etc. to help their best interests, not the consumers.  There are less mainstream environments where social communities can be developed if users are so inclined, but that is all determined by what they find important.

 Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be revisited by the U.S. government as the ambiguity of some of its wording gives a pass to many platforms due to interpretation. While I do agree that platforms can establish their own policies, there needs to be a possibility for government intervention in severe cases of misinformation, obscene and harassing content etc.

Every person would like to say that he owns what he says, and there are some steps that can be taken to have some autonomy in “public squares”. For example,  Instagram’s  Account Center allows  the user to download all of his information off the platform and even transfer a copy of it to another application, with Instagram obviously still having access to it on servers.  If we choose to use these platforms, we give up autonomy of what we say on there; to have singular ownership typically requires face-to-face conversation without the including of devices, platforms, and other secondary avenues.  

Overall, it is important that each individual values his data and chooses to interact in spaces that support his endeavors. The capabilities of the digital space are unknown, hence why media literacy and discernment are key.