There is no clear definition of what social media really is. However, a combination of the factors that encompass this technology leads to the coining of a descriptive statement. Social media can be looked at as the set of the “Web-based broadcast technologies that enable the democratization of contents, giving people the ability to emerge from consumers of content to publishers” (Scott and Jacka 5-6). This definition gives a very concrete fact of what actually social media does that is not in the other networks. It has been stated that social media enables the democratization of contents.
Democratize means that there is control of an organization or a group by the majority of its members (Stevenson and Waite 821). This is a very unique characteristic of the social media sites. The content or the information that is published in the media is under the control of the person who is sending the information or the holder of the account. Another very special and unique characteristic of the social media is the ability to turn the people from consumers to publishers of information. This means that the sites enable people to publish any content that they wish to without having to ask for permission from any person. This quality acts in giving the owners of the social media accounts the freedom to express every statement that they feel they want to. This paper looks at the way social media has allowed the users to insult, bully, and threaten others without the fear of punishment.
The Scope of Social Media, Freedom of Speech in Social Media and Its Misuse
Social media networking sites have been able to reach a great majority of the people all over the world. This has been associated with the ability to access the social media sites through any gadget that can access the internet. Some of the social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have been embedded on the phones and even have special dedicated keys for easier access. These sites have been formatted to desktop versions that works in the desktops and personal computers and mobile phone versions that are compatible with any phone model provided the phone has the ability of accessing the internet (Brunty and Helenek 11). This has made it easy for every age group to access the social networking sites since almost every youth and even the teenagers have access to mobile phones. This has helped to increase the popularity of the social media sites.
Another issue that have improved the popularity of the social media sites is the ability to send messages, chat instantly, send and tag photos and send other small sized documents at an instance. This made the social media sites so popular to yahoo mails and other information delivery sites (Brunty and Helenek 11). The ability of the people to form and join groups, share information with their friends, and meet with people who have similar goals in life also improves the popularity of the social media. However, this popularity and the features of the social networking sites are the ones that expose the people to been bullied and insulted.
There is a need to understand the features of the social networking sites if one has to understand how the sites are used in bullying, insulting, and threatening. The joining of the group is very open since it is not matched with any personal information from the user. A person who wants to join a social, networking site just needs to write a name, enter the email address, and the date of birth in the fields provided. Once an individual enters this information there is no system that is used to check of the information given is accurate. Therefore, people join the groups by using false information and false names and only the people who can understand them are their friends. This creates an anonymous state of the account owner (Graham, Dutton and Castells 352). This anonymous state gives insulters and bullies an assurance that even if they insult, bully or threaten others they cannot be identified and they cannot be associated with these accounts since they do not bear their personal information.
Another factor that has been exposing the user of social networking sites to insults, bullies and threats is the ability of a person to be included in a group without their will. For example, facebook allows the friends to a certain person to incorporate that person in a group even when the person is not aware that they are being incorporated. All that a person needs to know is the user name of the person they want to incorporate into their groups and then be connected with them. This is a strategy that has been employed by bullies in schools and has even led to the suicide of some students. When the bullies get the information about the person that they want to bully, they then seek to connect with them. Once they are in connection they have the ability now to insult them and threaten them. Since many children have the access to mobile phones and therefore access to social networking sites, bullying has been made simple. The process of bullying in the social media takes many dimensions. In some instances, bullying involves publishing of false information concerning a person, publicizing private information or images, or engaging in intimidation (Goldman 415). Youths have been mostly affected by bullying where the predatory adults pose as peers in these sites so as to facilitate meeting (Manassis 103). Bullying in schools also takes the form of parents or students publicizing defamatory information about the teachers on the social networking sites (Department of Education 1). This process is assisted by the fact that many schools have opened groups in the social media sites where they post information and is free to access them. This makes it simple to post these defamatory messages.
Studies on cyber bullying and its involvement with suicidal idealities has also assisted in identifying that cyber bullying is rampant everywhere (Goldblum 82). Bullying in the social networking sites does not only take the form of youths bullying each other or being bullied by adults. Even adults bully and threaten each other on the social media. This mostly takes place between employees employed in the same company. As these employees get into conflicts these conflicts are taken online where they insult each other over the social media. This is very easy because before these people got into conflict they were friends and they were even chatting in the social media sites. If one employee is on the wrong and they notice that they are about to be reported they use these social media sites to threaten their friends whom they are now in conflict with (Washington 21). This is simply because there is no satisfactory evidence to link these people with the accounts in the social media sites that are being used.
Another factor that facilitates the publishing of threats, insults, and bullying on the social media without fear is the fact that the social media sites are run by private institutions that are profit oriented (Tella and Issa 297). This means that there is very little or no inspection of the materials that are being posted on the sites. These sites provide a contract kind of relationship whereby when a user agrees to the terms of the social networking site the social networking site promises to maintain privacy of information. This means that the information published by a person can only be accessed by the friends and for it to be presented in a law court as an evidence of a criminal activity a long process has to be followed. This makes the people have a feeling of security of their data against being accessed by the law enforcement agents. Since many of the people who are threatened or insulted do not know the actual process of reporting these cases the bullies are not apprehended.
The people who have been bullied have assisted in increasing the confidence of the bullies in their acts. This is because very few people report these cases of bullying to the police (Congressional Quarterly, inc. 143). As a result, there are very few cases where bullies have been apprehended by law enforcement agents. Since they feel that even if they bully people they will not be reported the bullies get the courage to perform their evil activities. A deep look at the society reveals that people get to behave in a certain manner because they have seen the action being done by others in the society. For example, in a community where thieves are not apprehended or punished for their acts many people may end up joining these groups. This has been the case for cyber bullies who feel that they will not be held accountable for their actions. Many of the youths who are bullied prefer to commit suicide rather than report these incidences to the responsible people. This just serves to conceal bullying cases that should have been pursued.
Social media sites such as facebook make it possible for a person to add a comment or a picture and later remove them from their wall. When the information is removed it is deleted in the walls of all the people who were seeing it. Therefore, it is possible for a person to post an inflammatory image or message in the social networking site and then when the issue is raised remove the information before the investigations are done. This means that the evidence will be eliminated and for the investigator to get the information they have to go to the administrator of the social media site with a court warrant requiring for the same information. This complexity of the matter gives the bullies the confidence that they will not be caught in the act. The popularity of the social networking sites has also made the bullies have confidence of doing their acts. It is now a trend for the people to socialize in the social networking sites. People compete to have as many friends as possible. In this competition they connect with people that they do not even know. This therefore means that though the person is a friend on the site in the real sense they are strangers since they have never met. Many of the people who act as bullies take this status. The victims expose themselves to bullying by having anonymous friends. These anonymous friends who are bullies posed as friends then start their actions of bullying. The share personal information to the friends of that person, for example issues of extramarital relationships or images or comments that are meant and humiliating that person. When people see this information they comment on it further intensifying the case of bullying. Therefore, some people even bully others unawares. These people since they are not aware that they are bullying others will not fear punishment.
It is very eminent that social media has been a site that have perpetrated issuing of threats, bullying and insults without the culprits fearing punishment. One of the reasons for this is that the social media sites never verify the information of the account holders. This means that bullies can disguise themselves as other people and perform their evil activities. The popularity and the acceptance of the media by the community, coupled up with the fact that people do not report bullying cases has given the bullies courage that they will never be reported. The social media sites promise privacy of information. They also allow for the people to incorporate others in groups, add comments and delete them at will. All this serve to give the bullies’ courage that they will never be identified as they can remove the information before being investigated and for the victim to access again this information they have to undergo a complex court process. Thus, the bullies feel that they will not be identified. This has build courage in them to perpetrate the vice even more.
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