The Problems with Social Media Content Censorship

Where would we be without social media? It is sometimes hard to imagine that it is still a relatively recent concept, given how reliant we have all become on this tool. Not only is it social, almost all businesses rely on social media for their marketing, with some users receiving their entire livelihood from social media platforms. But social media is far from perfect…

Censorship and content rules are a hot topic and largely central to social media. The powers that be decide what you can and cannot say, post, or do with their platforms. In some cases, these rules align with laws. For example, on no social media platform is it acceptable to post a video of yourself committing a murder. I think most people would agree that this is a content rule we can all get behind. But what about content that breaks no laws, that social media says is not ok?

Nudity and sexual content are the most frequently targeted by social media, regardless of legality. Instagram and Facebook have a strict no nudity policy, per their own guidelines, and Tumblr has recently taken a stand against pornography following an overhaul two years ago. Twitter is more relaxed when it comes to adult content, allowing users the option of marking their tweets as “sensitive” to avoid offending certain people. But more on Twitter later.

So why is this a problem? A few reasons. Firstly, because it creates the illusion that certain social media is “safe” for children. Make no mistake. There is no social media platform that is safe for kids. Regardless of their “rules,” do not think for one second that ANY social media or interactions online are always going to be safe for children and young teenagers. Predators, trolls, and bullies are lurking everywhere. And if Facebook and Instagram think they are creating a “safe place” for kids by banning adult content, all they are really doing is helping predators and potential predators locate them more easily. Because everyone knows children will be on these platforms.

Another reason content rules are problematic is due to the selectivity with which they are applied. Twitter is perhaps the most obvious culprit for this, given their own rules outline the reasons they would make exceptions if a user decides to post tweets inciting violence, or illegal activity, or outright lies aimed at dividing a nation and causing chaos. If you are a politician or elected official, you are free to tweet any of this kind of content without consequence, as Twitter deems it “newsworthy” or “in the public interest.”

This is catastrophic. Politicians and elected officials are rarely experts in anything. So, why is their opinion free from censoring, when the average user is banned for saying exactly the same things? And I do mean EXACTLY. In June 2020, a Twitter account was suspended after just three days for tweeting exactly the same content as Donald Trump. Word for word. But that person was not a politician or elected official, you say. Okay. But then this experimental account was reinstated after it was pointed out to Twitter that it was only repeating what Mr Trump had tweeted. This lack of consistency is rampant across social media.

A final point, regarding society’s continued negative views of nudity and sexualised content. I may be going off on a slight tangent here, but it is my blog, so I will do what I like. It worries me that people seem to hold such negative views towards sex, wanting to hide it away as if it is something “bad.” It is a natural part of life, in fact, a beautiful part of life. Why do we persist in treating it so horribly? Maybe an example will prove my point…

Most parents would baulk at the idea of their young child being exposed to a female’s breasts with her nipples showing, a male’s penis, or a naked couple enjoying a passionate embrace. Images of actual intercourse would cause most of these parents to go into shock and shield their child’s eyes in horror and fear. Yet these same parents are fine with a film that depicts a young male protagonist watching his father being murdered by his uncle, then goes on to show the uncle attempting to murder the young male. The young male grows up, and of course seeks bloody revenge on his uncle who has been keeping his mother and other females prisoner, to the point where he almost starved them to death. The young male is victorious in then murdering his uncle, and all the kids cheer. Sounds horrible, right? Believe it or not, that’s the plot for Disney’s The Lion King. So, if you are a parent, next time you feel you want to have a coronary because your child accidentally sees a bit of nudity, maybe have a closer think about what else they are being exposed to. And whether you want them growing up with a healthy understanding of sex and nudity, or want them growing up shielded from this, but thinking murder and other forms of violence are perfectly fine.

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