News cycles in the United States have focused on issues of speech in recent days. Russia’s alleged influence on the 2016 presidential election has extended to social media. The NFL and the Trump White House have stated their philosophies using Twitter and Facebook. Troll farms both foreign and domestic continue to wreak havoc on public discourse in the United States. The nature and influence of speech on the internet has changed the way that people view their news. Social media sits at the heart of this change and influence.
The Senate Intelligence Committee alleged that Russia has bought, and continues to buy, ads on social media platforms. They cite efforts increase division in the United States as the reason. Throughout last year’s presidential campaign, the Kremlin backed many attacks. Most aimed to highlight America’s hot button issues. Posts about LGBT rights, abortion, and gun control all contributed to emphasizing political division across the country. The committee further said that Russian internet trolls contributed to the #takeaknee campaign currently taking place across the NFL. The United States remains divided. Russia’s influence on that division requires more investigation.
What does this mean for social media giants like Facebook? They’ve ramped up their security and authentication protocols. Sites require that people use their real names. If security flags the name as fake, they will disable accounts. Doing so avoids the possibility of influence from foreign agents. Social media companies take influence and counterterrorism efforts very seriously. Congressional members plan to meet with representatives from Google, Twitter, and Facebook. In these meetings, they will discuss security and influence operations.
Social networking has proven to be a huge influence on public discourse in the past. Given its role in major political and world events over the last year, there is no reason that should soon change.