Social Media and covert Censorship by sponsoring Popularity over Credibility

Promoting "Likes," "Followers," "Regards," and "Claps" based on Mainstream inclination; the embodiment of suppressive Censorship

Originally published in Data Driven Investor

Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

A"like" button, like option, clap, follow, or recommend button is a feature in social networking platforms, Internet forums, news websites, and blogs where users can express what they like, enjoy or support certain content. Their utility has grown more diverse, widespread, and strategic in the past decade. They are used for connecting people in virtual public places. However, social media owners prioritize who sees what action will increase exposure and like, most of which have little or naught to do with a genuine equal opportunity to express and support.

Social media is a principal instrument in the lives of modern-day people. Almost everyone in the world today uses some form of social media. Contrary to what most folks think, Social media is not a new tool. It may have roots in 1840 by the introduction of the telegraph, which connected the United States. Then the PLATO system commenced in 1960 after being created at the University of Illinois and subsequently commercially marketed by Control Data Corporation.

Today the more sophisticated versions of Social media are available merely at no cost to the entire world. Modern social media are robust and interactive. Such computer-mediated technologies can facilitate various human needs, such as creating or sharing information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression. Using modern social platforms today, we can create virtual communities and networks.

The catchphrase in social media implementation is the word" free." It is not an unseen fact that social media corporations make a significant amount of money where most of their income is through public information trade. The latter entities have efficiently harnessed the informational power to their advantage and use it in many ways. One can name influencing general mindset and behavior within the process, like what we witnessed about Russian meddling in the United States presidential election four years ago.

Social Media today is more than just a simple social communication system but a tool that, if used in a particular way, can be more damaging to individual and civil liberties than pure mass media censorship and hindering free speech and expression. Social Media has become creative using various interactive tools to engage the population and stimulate terms such as incorporating buttons or claps. Hence using this strategy, they have motivated social media participants to carry out particular activities.

Companies justify the "claps," "likes," and "follow" to prioritize information based on credibility, but in reality, that is hardly the circumstance. Today almost every industry, social media included, is also a big data industry. Data mining practices and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has provided social media the uppermost hand in asserting real-time free speech and censorship of information.

Free Speech and Free Expression are Individual Rights

The subject of free speech and expression is an interesting one. As simple as it may sound, nevertheless, it has faced significant semantic manipulations over history. One can delegitimize purely free speech by being painted as hateful or racist, even penalized without unlawful conduct. That has been a great instrument of excuse for members of certain groups who possess absolute control in the social media industry to meddle in what should or shouldn't be considered free speech.

Free speech and expression are the first and essential upholders of individual liberty and autonomy, for bitter or sweet. Free speech is never meant to be all pleasant to the listener; neither meant to sound all hateful. The quality of free expression is in the ears of the beholder.

Freedom of Expression is all about Equal Opportunity to Prove Ourselves

Liberty of expression without the equal opportunity of saving precious, irrespective of how it sounds to the listener, is discrimination. We can never express our opinion and consequently get unbiased feedback unless we entertain the same opportunities at all times. Social media today is segregated more than ever. Groups of like-minded people gather in clusters and virtually tap each other on the back and sympathize. And often, those clusters end up somewhere in the bottom of the piles of groups on the internet. Those getting the privilege of maximum exposures are popular that bring more fiscal profit to the media.

Any argument of whether to place limits on free speech undermines its value. Free expression is precious because its inhibition would jeopardize our independence.

This disinterest in the condition of free speech and refusing to define it without prejudice appears to be rooted in the principles of "liberal doctrine." That tends to consecrate free speech as one right, perhaps the top right, only within the context of the rights that deserve protection in a typical liberal or left-wing society. Therefore, to safeguard such a right, it seems, one must not particularize the value of how we will commonly use it. One would reveal less-valued or valueless speech to ignore, or worse, prohibition by addressing the importance of free speech.

In the actual scenario, social media is the instrument designed by its craft masters and their ideologies. We can never be over-reliant on the social media rhetoric and slogans, as we will potentially ultimately pivot at some point to benefit particular corporate objectives. And they will do that to determine what is a worthy speech and what is not!

A society recognizing itself thru rights must protect its boundaries. It must define itself under the definition of "the right," Vs. "overwhelming" itself with concerns, or at all, with what is within the guarded limit. Thus, the protection of unlimited speech and expression in social media overshadows our view of worthy speech.

The irony of free speech's liberal definition is currently conveyed through social media's voice as the everyday vernacular that we can easily define today. At the same time, the common perception is utterly subjective. On the contrary, Free speech is not an everyday speech. Everybody acknowledges the exception to unlimited speech in dangerous but moral circumstances, but no one wants to seek the significance implied in such exceptions.

Freedom of Expression is the Essence of Progression

At times we can even find value in ostensibly harmful speech, as in the "redeeming social value." That is something suppressed by social media algorithms today. Of course, presenting the satisfying language to everyone will be just as counterproductive irrespective of the number of likes or claps. Free expression in social media is the essence of exploring controversial issues in life, finding solutions and common grounds.

Curbing free expression by social media is the monopoly against net neutrality. Observed fact supports this reasoning. Analyzing a dataset comprising 10.1 million U.S. Facebook users shows that users possessing liberal ideologies are less likely than their conservative counterparts to get exposed to news content that obstruct their political sights. Another analysis of the Yahoo! search query concluded that the more right-leaning a question, the more negative attitudes in its search findings. To the same extent, more exposure gains more likes and claps.

The Monopoly of Expression Robbing People of their Power of Information

The power of information is sweeping. With the unlimited source of information at its sweep, social media is only aware of our personalities, likes, and dislikes but is also strategically aligned to manipulate us to carry out any task without our conscious desire. Social media is a perfect tool for selective conditioned learning. It rewards its users whenever, wherever, for whatever reason. So, it is also perfect for facilitating behavior change consistent with the standards of the social media masterminds. Social media is an ideal tool for manipulating the public mood, promoting particular behavior, and suppressing the rest under the rationale of protecting the community.

Social media has effectively established a worldwide "mob mentality." It has ensured how their peers exploit people to adopt individual attitudes, follow tendencies, or purchase commodities. In the traditional sense, the mob or herd mentality transpired when individuals were physically in a large group and, thus, more inclined to lose their sense of individual identity or follow standard restraints to do what others are doing. Today, we don't have to be in the same physical setting to relate to the social media mob. This virtual mob mentality quickly becomes a powerful marketing tool in the herd mentality, whereas likes and claps embody a herding stick.

Today, businesses and political factions utilize crowd manipulation tactics to promote their products, services, and ideologies. Latter is defined as the "deliberate use of procedures based on the concept of crowd psychology to engross, control, or influence the desires of a crowd to direct its behavior toward a specific action. Appreciating that social media users can react as a mob, businesses now have several social media outlets to promptly and cost-effectively exploit the masses.

Social media manipulation is reaping as more administrations use it to wield public opinion; it's becoming a rising threat to individual liberty. The new normal in social media lines and claps encompasses toxic messaging that's easy to spread globally with the powerful new tools for targeting and amplification via strategies, as to who gets to follow who and like whose postings.

According to the University of Oxford's Research Project, algorithms, automation, and big data usage shape public opinion — i.e., computational propaganda is becoming "a pervasive and omnipresent aspect of everyday human life.

Social Media, Claps, Likes, and Follows; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Social Media and Exposure determines how many Claps, likes, or follows one receives but are biased. The buttons such as "Like" serve as an online metric meant to add content validation to the website's social media. Users today are often fixated on making a large amount of visible social media metrics. Everyone from individual users to companies to celebrities competes for many "likes" on their social media posts. That is why producing high amounts of social media metrics goes beyond just popularity. When a post generates likes, comments, and shares, it is automatically given more visibility due to algorithms.

Human beings enjoy the attention and continually seek approval. The likes, claps, comments, and posts we share on social media matter. They tap into some of the very core elements within us and our addictions, desires, anxieties, and pleasures. Social media experience can be rewarding and incredibly liberating to the human mind. However, to the same extent, it can be harmful (or bad) to personal liberty. The most sinister part of social media likes and claps is how a particular system utilizes them to promote specific ideas and suppress the rest. Because likes, comments, and shares are compelling to consumers' perceptions of social media marketing messages. Users rely on heuristic clues to evaluate perceived credibility, information quality, and usefulness of online data.

Research has indicated that users rely on specific visible hints when evaluating online influence indicators such as likes, comments, and shares.

Social media censorship functions utilizing the phenomenon of perception bias. Likely, perception bias has played a role in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by exaggerating the mortality rate of 2–3% to seem like 50%. Perception bias also plays a prominent role in politics. When political personages target influential people to carry their words, they use perception bias to make a message appear more popular, which is; something social media conveys efficiently.

Today, the media reports news in a biased way, conceivably affecting the beliefs of news consumers and altering their behaviors. Social media solely promotes the mainstream, particularly those of the liberal factions.

Social Media likes are more about Popularity rather than Credibility and more about Strategy than Tactics.

It is the common perception that the tactical stance of social media is the establishment of virtual public space. It is meant to serve as an environment where people can meet and exchange ideas. Still, just like any public place in a politically restricted community, social media also has its particular dictators. For instance, Social media and user-generated content are increasingly moving to the center stage, shaping journalism's strategic direction and custom towards interpretive journalism. For that reason, the tactical mission of social media becomes replaced by the strategic mission towards creating a percept of popularity.

In contrast to the monopolistic social media system, an open free space where open dialogue is fundamentally the prevailing driver, a healthy exchange of information will lay the foundation for establishing credibility. Therefore likes, and claps mean genuine. But unfortunately, today, the fake click like and follow market has generated another business for social media. Many people have even bought fake accounts and collected fake followers only to show that they are popular and credible. Moreover, Many visible likes and shares on social media lead people to disseminate more misinformation. When people see that a piece of content has been liked and shared often, they tend to share it themselves.

Social media is an excellent tool for exchanging ideas, sharing perspectives, and finding better solutions to most problems. However, that is if the freedom of speech and expression in its purest form is upheld. Moreover, based on that notion, the media exercises net neutrality and fair exposure to everyone without prejudice. Only after responses like claps, Shares, follows, and likes will reflect the actual credibility of the conveyor of the information. Until then:

The perfect sham done by social media is their hidden charge of promoting “likes,” “followers,” “regards,” and “claps” based on mainstream bent; the epitome of censorship thru annihilation of the minority opinion only because of the mainstream does not like their posting. — Adam Tabriz, MD

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