Sosyal Medya


Are social media platforms posing a threat to the sovereignty of nations?

To be fair, the business of running a government transcends the immediate financial gains these social media companies are set out to make.

Ashraf Akintola

In 2018, there was a two-day congressional inquisition of Facebook by the United State Congress.  The company was investigated on its role in the election that brought Donald Trump into power. This is enough eye-opener to show that social media companies' freedom to propagate certain beliefs through their broad outreach and easy accessibility needs to be constantly checked.

As far as the subject of the role of social media in shaping subscribers' minds and behaviours remains, the importance of subjecting all these platforms to the same scrutiny that other arms of government require becomes the role of any government of the people. This is not in any way an attempt to restrict the freedom of speech of the citizenry. However, in a scenario where data such as personal information can easily be mined, and internet algorithms manipulated by those in charge of these platforms to suit a specific aim and target; laying on the side of caution to prevent tyranny would mean installing all forms of checks and balances to nip such problem in the bud.

Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world, with almost 2.5 billion users globally. The platform has been banned in countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria either because of political differences or to give room for homegrown social media platforms like WeChat and TikTok (in China) to grow. Nigeria recently joined this rank among other countries by placing a ban on Twitter, the largest microblogging platform in the world. This came after the tweet of the country's president was deleted, having violated the standing rule of Twitter. In a swift reaction, the federal government of Nigeria placed a ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria. Notably, Twitter was used as the central platform to organize the 2020 anti-government (#Endsars) protest in Nigeria.

In India, Twitter also faces a similar dilemma due to India's new Intermediary Rules for Internet platforms. The government has sent multiple notices to Twitter and threatened to revoke the intermediary protection offered by Section 79 of India's IT Act, which protects media from being sued for acts by its users. The government had asked Twitter to bring down tweets that had used incendiary hashtags as well as accounts supposedly used separatist groups". Twitter had first blocked some 250 users in response to legal notice by the government, citing objections based on public order.

In a 2013 court case in Paris, a French Jewish student union, backed by the country's most prominent anti-racism groups, appealed to a judge to force Twitter to hand over personal details of users who had tweeted anti-semitic comments under the hashtags #UnBonJuif (a good Jew) and #UnJuifMort (a dead Jew), so the users could be prosecuted. Eventually, the offensive hashtags were removed when the group won in court. Still, the details of the Hashtags users were not handed over as Twitter claims that the only way the site could be forced to hand over details would be if the French justice system appealed to American judges to push for the data. In short, no French court have jurisdictions over Twitter.

Twitter was also used effectively in the buildup of the 2021 US capitol insurrection. The result of which led to the permanent removal of President Donald Trump from Twitter and Facebook.

From the 2016 US election to the US capitol insurrection, as well as the Nigerian #Endsars protest and the Indian secession incendiary hashtags and many other examples, what is common in all is the power that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, hold in shaping the behaviour and actions of people with regard law and order in a country. The question now ensues; who do these social media giants answer to?

To be fair, the business of running a government transcends the immediate financial gains these social media companies are set out to make. The primary way social media companies like Facebook and Twitter make money is through selling advertising. Not just mere advertising but targeted advertising to rake in huge sales from maximum impact. This is done effectively with the details of readily available users at the hands of the social media CEOs.

In reality, Twitter or Facebook would not be where they are today if, in addition to making connections and sharing information easily, they didn't add financial gains to their mantra. So, it is not surprising when the Nigerian Minister of Information, Mr Lai Muhammad, stated that "we have a country to run". The same applies in the case of France. But in the case of the US capitol insurrection, Twitter itself exhibited a glaring double standard. As noted by a Nigerian Investigative Journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, that "deleting the president's tweets is not the trigger for the twitter ban in Nigeria but a climax of the Nigerian government's anger with Twitter". It makes no sense for a government (good or bad) to continue to accommodate a tool that was almost used to destabilize the country just for the sake of "freedom of speech".

If Twitter can concern itself with how a country is being run, then it is no longer an unbiased mouthpiece, and it should be ready to obey the laws of the land in which it was granted access. Why would Mr Jack personally actively solicit fund for an anti-government movement in a foreign country while also trying to sabotage anti-government movement in his home country? Either you are Pro/anti-Buhari or Pro/anti-Trump is not the question, but simple logic to see the hypocrisy of absolute power when unchecked.

Freedom, just like power, when unchecked, leads to unsurmountable catastrophe. When we allow tyranny to thrive in the name of freedom of expression, then we are inviting doom into our doors. Social media is powerful, and it has been used to perform wonder across the globe. But a good tool, if not appropriately wielded, ends up in destruction. Democracy; the government of the people, by the people and for the people, functions across the globe because of the checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. If a similar approach can be extended to social media that directly impact the people, it would go a long way in making this world a better place.  

Be the first to comment .

* * Required fields are marked