Editorial Roundup: Social media platforms facing more pressure

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Social media platforms have for years faced congressional criticism for a variety of misdeeds, including failing to protect kids, misusing users’ personal data, doing nothing to counteract online bullying and allowing violent threats to populate their sites.

A series of incidents have coalesced that make it more likely Congress may take legislative action and possibly offer hope that the social media platforms will do more to police themselves.

Last week the House Oversight Committee demanded the platforms quickly address the surge of online threats against law enforcement after the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

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A letter to eight media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, demands information detailing the number of threats against law enforcement made on their platforms and how each platform identifies and responds to online threats.

The social media companies need to respond quickly and transparently on how they will take concrete steps to tamp down the toxic environment or they will ramp up the pressure for Congress to take action.

Twitter is particularly under intense scrutiny after the company’s former security chief filed a complaint with two government watchdog agencies offering a devastating critique of Twitter’s security protocols.

He said half the company’s servers are vulnerable to hacks and that leadership hid information from the board of directors about the number of security breaches that have occurred.

That insider embarrassment comes months after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s explosive testimony to Congress about social media’s threat to children. That testimony has provided bipartisan support for legislation that would ban targeted ads aimed at kids younger than 16, give parents more control over their kids’ activities online, and force tech firms to create default systems to better protect kids.

Social media companies currently have broad protection from legal action for speech that appears on their sites.

Keeping those protections makes it in the companies’ best interest to cooperate with Congress and to show they will — finally — take serious steps to protect their users and prevent violent threats on their platforms.

If not, Congress will be required to take actions that the social media companies don’t want and that could cause limits on legitimate speech and activities online.

Mankato Free Press, Aug. 30

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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