This post was originally written in PT-BR and published last april. It has now been translated to EN.
Both the text and the video are quite interesting and I recommend that you pay attention to what is there.
Watching the video, I was reminded of points that had already been indicated in a text published in 2019 that deals with the necessary reflections on social platforms and what we do with them. Although the 2019 text mainly addresses Facebook, I believe that reflection can be dealt with in order to understand what happened and was reported in the video/podcast by Tecnopolítica and in the text by The Intercept Brasil.
We adopt social platforms as an important part of the dialogical dynamics that occur on the internet. We make use of these platforms as if they were part of social structures inherent in the forces of corporate financial interests. Only they aren’t. The platforms serve the interests of the companies that maintain them.
We are so used to living our lives considering that “everyone is on twitter / facebook / youtube” that we forget that these spaces are not public spaces. As said, they are private applications that belong to commercial institutions that exploit them hoping for a financial benefit. As such, they follow rules and act in accordance with the interests of the companies that control them.
Does this mean that platforms and companies are essentially evil and that we should avoid them? Obviously not. If it weren’t for platforms and social media, many of the benefits and social movements we’ve witnessed in recent years would not have gained the dimension they did or even would have occurred.
A long way to go
We must not regard platforms as exempt or neutral. The myth of neutrality must definitely be debunked (this text by the CHT is very interesting in this sense). We need to overcome this idea / utopia of neutrality (whether from press vehicles, governments and, of course, corporations).
The next step will be to overcome the idea that “since they are not neutral, these entities are evil”. It’s not like that either. The important thing is that we – as a society – manage to see these entities as what they really are: the materialization or operationalization in actions of interests of groups of people.
In this sense, it is to be expected that governments, in theory, will come to represent broader interests, which aim at the good of all those who are represented by them. Specific interests, linked to financial gains, are what drive company actions. Knowing that they are companies that create and maintain social media platforms, this becomes simpler. Likewise, they are companies that control and guide the actions of communication and media companies.
They are all defending interests. As citizens, we can interfere in the process by choosing well our legislative and executive representatives who will work to defend our (society) interests, creating the rules and working to guarantee the execution and compliance with these rules.
This leads to the fact that it is up to legislators to create the rules that will guide and regulate the actions of companies and governments to act to ensure that they are complied with. In the specific sense of what I’ve been dealing with here, regulation applies to media and communication companies and, of course, to social platforms. Regulation does not mean and does not imply censorship or even curtailment of freedoms. I understand that they should be mechanisms that guarantee a clearer functioning of the activities in which these institutions are involved.
If we choose the legislators and our representatives in the executive branch well, we (society) will have more chances of a better future in this regard.
At the other point are the companies and commercial entities that, when the set of regulations is established and in operation, must adjust their operation and develop internal policies to deal with issues that have impacts on the societies in which they operate.
If there are no sets of norms and rules that establish the boundaries of the actions of commercial institutions, these will create their own rules, resulting in developments that will not necessarily please or even meet the interests of societies. Commercial entities, in turn, need to act in a way that reconciles their interests with those of the communities they serve.