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Should social media platform proprietors be held responsible for abuses or individual users only?

by Njabulo
13 Feb 2021 at 09:34hrs | Views
It is now being suggested that the social media platform proprietors (eg Facebook ), must take full responsibility of any abuses perpetrated to others by the users of those social media platforms. This has prompted those social media platforms proprietors to change the rules governing their use by the users. Hereunder, I have given my own opinion regarding this complex and interesting debate. (opinion is free). In my view, people must use the social media platforms with a higher sense of responsibility. In other words, due care must always be taken, by all user, when posting anything using them. We all owe a duty of care to each other. People must give it a thought of what they want to post or send, before clicking the send /post button. And they must be liable for any abuse that they perpetrate against another, in those social media platforms. If for example, you insult someone on Facebook or Whatsup, in my opinion, then one must be the one to be liable for any harm done to another, but not the social media provider. So, reasonableness must always prevail to all social media users. One cannot expect to have what they post or send to censored by the social media platform proprietors (always).

However, save for the above view, it is also a good fact that those companies that own or are proprietors of those social media platforms to take reasonable action to ensure that those social media platforms, which they own are not used as tools of abusing others. However, it is not easy for those social media platform owners to police all the people that use their social media platforms. Thus because the number of users is very big. And one important issue that all people must know, is that the control of the contents of what individuals post and receive is privatised on those media platforms. So, users have an option to chose as to which one they want to use. Further, the use of passwords, makes it difficult for the social media proprietors to access private messages. Unless if the contents are posted on the walls that are accessible by the public, that is when those companies are able to remove contents which maybe deemed inappropriate for consumption by the public or the content maybe deemed to corrupt or deprave the public or may not be suitable for young people and/or children. So, for those messages that are sent to individuals in their private mail boxes, it is difficult for those social media companies to police or to control them. The social media propriators can, in most cases access those if a complaint has been brought to their attention. And if the case is being investigated by the police, then the owner of that device which has a social media platform installed on it, is compelled to provide a password of it.

Furthermore, it will be unconscionable to the social media proprietors, to make them take the full responsibility of any abuses that take place on their social media platforms(eg crimes of hate/racial abuse, )because the laws limit the access or interference with the privacy of individual users of those media platforms. That goes for business entities(institutions, organisations et cetera, as well) that use those media platforms to do their business dealings. If certain information regarding business dealings is not held in confidence, then that would compromise those business entities. So, social media companies might even use that information wrongly. So, business entities have a discreet policy in order to protect their businesses. All messages that they send to individuals and other companies, institutions, organisations or public companies, must be in private. Unless if that information is meant for public consumption (eg adverts). That information must not be seen by anyone. For example, to protect or safeguard confidential intellectual property rights, certain novel designs, for a particular company must be kept secret, until that design has been implemented, lest it gets stolen (it will no longer be novel(new & unique). If that information is being seen by any third parties without the consent of those business entities, then that would compromise those business deals or plans. Moreso, those business companies would sue those social media owners for breach of their privacy /breach confidentiality and/or data not being protected . That goes for individuals who are innocently using those media platforms without any malicious intent or criminal objectives. No one would like their private messages to be seen by any third party or even the social media platform owners. That is why there is an outcry, worldwide now, as to why whatsups media platform wants messages sent by individuals and business entities to be seen /monitored by that company or proprietor. A lot of people have panicked and have now opted to use different social media platforms, in order to avoid that interference with their privacy.

One important aspect that one has to bear in mind, is that, the social media platforms do allow pseudo names for anonymity in opening those accounts on social media. So, anyone can trade or open an account using a pseudo name in order to be anonymous or a pseudo domain name(domain name is an email address). And that is allowed by law. The laws do not sanction that in any part of the world. Moreso, that also protects people from abuses by others, which is what the social media platforms are trying to do or are doing to some extent. (Advise if they target you, block them. Fortunately, for me I have never been a target by anyone in social media, as a candidate to be abused).

Whilst the above means of concealing one's identity is right to some extend if one wants to avoid being abused, it becomes a problem when those anonymous users, who anonymize their social media, in order to engage in criminal activities, do so without being sanctioned by the social media owners. So, a reasonable action must be taken by the social media proprietors, if a complaint has been made to them. But, the fact is that, the social media owners might also be fearing that they might encroach in someone's private affairs or messages. So, legally a balance has to made were appropriate. That is if a report of some criminal activity is reported, then the social media owners, can access the private messages in order to deal with the problem. Apart from that, those users who use them in good faith, would feel bad if their privacy is interfered with. Moreso, many do not want to even submit their identity documents to the social media platform proprietors, for data protection reasons and other reasons best known to them. So, if social media proprietors start demanding identity documents from users and prospective users, that will be challenged by the public, even in courts. In any case, it would not be welcome by anyone to be asked to submit their identification documents to open social a media accounts. That also puts many people at risk, as some criminals might use anyone's documents to open those accounts, thereby putting others at risk of taking the blame. That could compromise social media users, should any criminals use their identity documents and then perpetrate any crime. So, that is very subjective indeed.

 Most fraud nowadays occurs on social media platforms. And it would be unfair for social media platforms proprietors to take the full blame. Thus because of the reasons that have been mentioned in the forgoing, to limit their access, makes it difficult for them to police all accounts, by statutes.

Furthermore, there are many hackers that hack the social media platforms, which makes it difficult for social media proprietors to stop the crimes that occur on the social media platforms. So, many people end up in trouble because of the hacking taking place in the social media platforms. Research has also shown that some crimes of hacking are committed non other than some media companies, whose aim is to get confidential information, so as to attract more viewers or readersFor example, research has shown that most of BBC news are obtained through hacking social media accounts of Black's. Thus why BBC is resented by many Black's. It is racist orientated and half of its videos or news are stage managed or fabricated. If you are pursuing any course, please do not google their cite to use as a reference, otherwise you will be failed. (eg their law reports contradicts with the courts records, so one can get wrong information, tailored to suit the needs of a white supremacist journalist ). Thus why most African leaders resent that media a lot. Half of their news is fabricated and internet generated. And people are not allowed to question what they broadcast or publish. They even govern that country. Their government plays second fiddle in running the UK.

Another outcry about the social media, comes from the states(countries). They also use those social media platforms. If certain information could be allowed to be seen by social media platform owners, then that would compromise their national security. Some countries which have the owners of those social media platforms, would access all the information which they need of those other countries. Certainly that would spell a disaster for all countries. So, for that matter, the social media platform owners are limited in accessing the information of social media platforms which they own. What limits them are laws. Should the social media opt to do that, then they would be in breach of the laws governing privacy/data protection and /or confidentiality. All over the world laws are very strict when it comes to privacy/data protection. and /or duty of confidentiality. So, the duty of confidentiality. is very crucial in the social media platforms. One might perceive that as the suppression of freedom of speech or expression But, freedom of speech or expression, is not an absolute right. So, a balance has to be created in order to protect the public. And the duty of protecting the public overrides that of freedom of expression or speech. Please do not misconstrue this analysis as bent on supporting a complete suppression of freedom of speech or expression.

Beside holding the social media platform proprietors accountable, as suggested, there are also Internet Service Providers(lSP), who play a more important role in facilitating the functioning of those social media platforms. The ISP work hand in glove with many players who fight the commission of crime in the internet. Due to the ubiquity of the internet, it has proved to be difficult to hold the ISP accountable for any crimes that take place in the internet. (eg there has been a numberless cases in the UK courts filed against ISP, in order for the ISP to take responsibility)(will not go into detail on that and the laws governing the social media platforms). That follows that, crimes being committed trough the ISP also take place in social media platforms. These are intertwined in other words. Unless if someone is only using the internet without any social media platform. So many issues make it difficult to police the internet and the social media platforms. This is a war that cannot be won in 2021 or in ten years to come, in this digital age. There are many issues that hinder the propagation or implementation of the strategies designed to stop social media abuses and the internet abuses and crimes. For example, the issue of jurisdiction. The issue of dogging by criminals. The peprtatrotor or criminals open a plethora of accounts in the social media using different pseudo names or domain names. However, there are efforts to block or close those websites, but every minute a new one is opened to defraud people or to engage in some criminal activity.

My argument here, is based on my legal knowledge and research that I have been involved in. So, I am writing this analysis based on practical bases. The suppression or eradication of all the crimes in the social media and the internet, are an unwinnable war at the moment(in this digital age). So, the social media proprietors, cannot be forced by law to take full responsibility to stop any abuse or crimes which is/are facilitated through them. That includes the ISPs, they must not be fully forced to take that liability. But, on the other hand they must both continue to strategies on how to police their platforms and to arrest the situation. They must always take reasonable action whoever a complaints are made about criminals and abusers of their platforms.

Having mentioned all the above, the effort by social media platforms proprietors and the ISPs, to fight the abuse or crimes being perpetrated by those who knowingly engage in crimes using them or unknowingly engage in crimes using them, is greatly appreciated by all people.

Article by Njabulo. libertyatliberty at gmail dot com.

Source - Njabulo
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