For years, social media platforms have fueled political polarization and hosted an explosion of hate speech. Now, with four months until the U.S. presidential election and the country’s divisions reaching a boiling point, these companies are upping their game against bigotry and threats of violence.
What’s not yet clear is whether this action is too little, too late — nor whether the pressure on these companies, including a growing advertiser boycott, will be enough to produce lasting change.
Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported President-Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech. Also on Monday, live-streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its hateful conduct rules.
YouTube, meanwhile, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Social media companies, led by Facebook, now face a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms. Civil rights groups have called on large advertisers to stop Facebook ad campaigns during July, saying the social network isn’t doing enough to curtail racist and violent content on its platform.
Companies such as the consumer goods giant Unilever — one of the world’s largest advertisers — as well as Verizon, Ford and many smaller brands have joined the boycott, some for the month of July and others for the rest of the year. New companies have been signing on to the boycott almost every day. While some are pausing ads only on Facebook, others have also stepped back from advertising on Twitter and other platforms.
On Monday, Ford Motor Co. put the brakes on all national social media advertising for the next 30 days. The company says hate speech, as well as posts advocating violence and racial injustice, need to be eradicated from the sites.
Reddit’s action was part of a larger purge at the San Francisco-based site. The company said it took down a total of 2,000 forums, known as the site as “subreddits,” most of which it said were inactive or had few users.
The Trump Reddit forum, called The_Donald, was banned because it encouraged violence, regularly broke other Reddit rules, and defiantly “antagonized” both Reddit and other forums, the company said in a statement. Reddit had previously tried to discipline the forum.
“We are cautiously optimistic that Reddit is finally working with groups like ours to dismantle the systems that enable hateful rhetoric on their platform,” Bridget Todd, a spokeswoman for the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement.
The group said its members met with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman via Zoom last week, encouraging him to address racism and hate speech on the platform.
For its part, Twitch pointed to comments the president made at two rallies, videos of which were posted on the site.
In one, a livestream of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into someone’s home. The other was from a 2015 campaign rally that was recently posted on Twitch, in which Trump said Mexico sends rapists and criminals to the U.S. Twitch declined to say how long the suspension will last.
The White House referred a request for comment to Trump’s reelection campaign. Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, said that people who want to hear directly from the president should download the campaign’s app.
Reddit has tweaked its rules and banned forums for white nationalists over the years in an attempt to rid its platform of vitriol, sometimes producing significant user backlash as a result.
CEO Steve Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit was working with moderators to explicitly address hate speech.
Joseph Pisani in New York and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this article.
Tali Arbel And Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press
Kamloops RCMP officer's 'black face' social media posts under review – Kamloops This Week
A Kamloops police officer’s conduct is under review after he made black face jokes in a series of posts on his personal Instagram account.
RCMP Const. Rupert Meinke’s posts showed him receiving skin treatment. In one photo, a woman is apparently applying a black cleansing mask to his face; another appears to be a selfie with the cleansing mask on.
The photo of the mask being applied is accompanied by this caption: “Black face session. It’s suppose to help my looks. I don’t think it’s working,” followed by a laughing emoji.
The selfie is accompanied by this caption: “Is my skin racist? Micro aggressions matter.”
Meinke’s Instagram is private and it’s unclear when the posts were made, but screenshots of them began circulating on social media late last week.
Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky told KTW he cannot speak to specifics regarding Meinke’s Instagram posts or duty status, but said making black face jokes on social media would not be smart.
“In this day and age that we’re in, that would be a dumb thing to do,” Lecky said. “I would certainly look into it.”
Lecky said he is unable to discuss Meinke’s posts because they were made on a personal Instagram account.
“It’s a social media account that is private and it isn’t linked to policing or the RCMP,” Lecky said. “So, I can’t even confirm to you if it’s a member.”
If he were to be made aware of such posts coming from a constable, Lecky said, an internal code-of-conduct investigation would be launched.
Meinke has also worked as a part-time instructor at Thompson Rivers University. He has taught police and justice studies classes.
University spokeswoman Darshan Lindsay told KTW the institution is “looking into” Meinke’s Instagram posts.
“Our commitment is to create a university where everyone belongs, where we show our respect for one another through our actions and in our words,” she said. “While we won’t be providing further comment on this matter, we can confirm the individual has taught courses part-time at TRU in the past.”
Lindsay said Meinke is not currently employed by or teaching at TRU.
Lecky said he was first made aware of the Instagram posts on Sunday, July 5.
CTV News Vancouver also reported on this story and was among media outlets to reach out to Meinke for comment. He replied, saying: “Sorry I cannot comment other than it is a skin care product. Take care.”
“Charcoal face masks, no harm, no foul,” Vanessa Simon, an activist and organizer for Black Lives Matter, told CTV. “But then you’re posting on your social media for the public to see, asking, ‘Is this racist? Micro aggression matters,’ you’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed by the community and he is getting what is coming to him.”
Simon told CTV News she was frustrated when she first saw the posts, opining they are insensitive and in poor taste.
“It’s concerning to me that there’s someone like that in the police department,” she said.
Social media sleuths solved the mystery of this Alberta woman's photo – CTV News
When a woman shared a photo of her late father in a placed she couldn’t quite place, she turned to social media for help.
It all started when a Reddit user posted a thread Saturday, asking for help from fellow users to identify a particular spot in K-Country.
The discussion ended up spurring dozens of comments, leading up to the point where users not only identified the spot by name, but provided Google Map coordinates for the exact location.
As a result, the woman said she plans to do a photo tribute at the location for her father.
To make the situation even sweeter, the user said she still has her father’s motorcycle.
“We still have his BMW seen in the pic. Oh boy, that means I’d have to get licensed up. It’s a large bike and I’m a tiny woman, hah!”
Putting The Social Back In Social Media: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Social – Forbes
Social media has gotten a bad name partially based on how negatively it can affect self-esteem and true connectedness. But that may be changing given the coronavirus pandemic which has led to our separation from each other, mental health issues and shifting habits.
In fact, social media has an important role to play—both new and renewed—during the pandemic. It can connect us in profound ways. We are social creatures and it is our instinct to come together. That’s why social distancing has been so hard. Our brains crave relationships, and from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology, we seek safety in numbers when we’re faced with threat or danger. That’s the reason solitary confinement is one of the most severe punishments we can impose. Our humanity demands connections—one way or another.
In the midst of quarantine, social media is a window on the world. For Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Social Impact for Hootsuite, the new role of social media takes it back to its origins. “Social media started as a mechanism to connect people, engage people and build relationships. It is returning to its roots,” he says. Evan Kirstel, founder @eViRa and B2B influencer agrees, “Social media is a social water cooler for a lot of people—it’s the importance of the social side of social media.”
Our use of all kinds of media—including social media—is surging.
- According to a study by GlobalWebIndex which spanned 13 countries, four generations and all income levels, 95% of consumers reported spending more time on media consumption, and an increase in the use of key platforms to connect—a 70% monthly increase in video calling with Facebook and a 100% increase in WhatsApp voice and video. Also, 45% of all global consumers are spending more time on messaging services.
- In addition, according to the GlobalWebIndex, Pinterest and Google consumption is up for all kinds of media from decorating ideas and YouTube meditation videos (up 51%) to DIY videos for bread making, movie recommendations and live streaming of music and sports events via Instagram.
- Almost half of internet users surveyed in Hootsuite’s April Digital in 2020 Statshot have reported spending more time on social networks. In addition, messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp increased 50% in countries hardest hit by the virus, and Twitter has seen a 23% increase in daily users compared with a year ago.
So, what does all this mean, and what actions should you take regarding media, and social media in particular?
Build relationships. Leverage all kinds of media—including social media— to connect, build relationships and communicate with your people. The pandemic has been tough on our mental health and (social) media may be the solution. Video conference with your grandparents, tap into your neighborhood app to stay in touch with friends down the street and utilize your favorite platform to share videos of your new puppy with other new-puppy parents.
Relieve pressure. Social media also has a role to play in alleviating tension and enhancing moments of empathy. Letting others lean on you by sharing a laugh at the latest cat video or humorous meme is good for the soul. “It’s about creating moments of empathy and being there for each other as a community,” says Campher.
Embrace opportunity. Another element to take advantage of on social media is the extent to which it levels the playing field. You can start a business or create a movement. “No matter what your skills or background or interests, social media enables you to begin a venture for yourself. Think outside the box in terms of what you can do,” says Kirstel.
Exercise caution and ensure transparency. Of course, it’s not all positive. There is a dark side to social media. While there is no magic bullet, Campher says, “Transparency is key to maintaining the good. Relationships work best when they are enlightened and that is also true of all media including social media.” Kirstel points out the negatives on social media can be outweighed by the “pure gold that exists in discovery, learning, education and new connections,” that can result from the platforms.
Leverage the power to transform. Campher is optimistic and believes, “Social media has the power to transform society for the better.” Through building relationships, ensuring transparency, enhancing accountability and delivering solutions, social media can help us through tough times. Kirstel points out the amplification of voices via social media. “All your stakeholders are on social media—investors, analysts, shareholders, community members, and more,” he says. This can be transformative because of its reach and potential positive influence.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a reset in many aspects of life and social media is one of them. Use of media—including social media—has increased significantly. Leverage the power of social media to build relationships, relieve pressure and embrace opportunities. Use caution, of course. But overall realize how powerful social media can be in transforming relationships and society—for the better.
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