Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Greater public education needed on the dangers of social media – Clayton

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2022 | 12:08 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Professor Anthony Clayton.
Professor Anthony Clayton.

Amid the debate surrounding fake news on online platforms, immediate past chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Professor Anthony Clayton, believes that greater public education is needed on the dangers of social media.

During a Gleaner interview on Sunday, Clayton said, “An approach to regulation is going to rely heavily on educating people on the potential harms of social media and if there are going to be any regulatory sanctions, what Europe has done is made it clear that penalties would have to be levied against the companies and not individual users.”

On March 25, the European Union reached a political agreement on proposed Digital Markets Act. According to the legislation, it establishes a “notice and action” mechanism which ensures that safeguards are in place for the removal of illegal online services and products. Upon receipt of a notice, social media companies should take urgent action to remove the offensive content or risk being sanctioned by EU member states.

The rationale for this law has been the proliferation of abusive, harmful or illegal content on social media companies.

“Europe has taken the view that once a social media company is notified, they should have 48 hours to take down the material which includes exhortations to violence, and if they fail to do so, then they should be fined and the fines are very serious,” said Clayton.

The agreement reached by the European Parliament and the European Council will now need to be approved by these two bodies for the legislation to take effect across the bloc. This legislation will be applied within six months after it becomes law.

This became a major topic of discussion during the second staging of the Multinational Perspectives Forum held by The University of the West Indies Debating Society.

Weighing in on whether there is a role for the state to pass legislation about social media censorship, panellist and senior UWI debater Ronaldo Blake stated, “The state sometimes needs to legislate as, if it was up to the social media companies, they probably would not have made these changes on their own. Those came about largely due to public pressure and some legislative action.”

REGULATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES

Even though Clayton acknowledges the merits of this approach and he stresses the need for social media companies to be regulated, Professor Clayton has argued that it is not possible for Jamaica to adopt a similar approach.

“…Now that’s Europe’s approach. We cannot do that because we don’t have the same leverage on the social media companies. We have to emphasise more the educational side or digital literacy,” he added. He stressed that social media should not and cannot be regulated in a similar manner to conventional media.

In January 2022, the Nigeria government ordered an end to the country’s seven-month ban on Twitter. The government alleged that “Nigeria’s corporate existence” was being undermined due to the spreading of fake news that may produce dangerous consequence. Although, this move came after Twitter removed Nigeria’s President Buhari’s post that referred to the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War.

His tweet suggested that “those misbehaving today” should be treated in “the language they will understand”, which is a veiled reference to the violence that took place in the country.

However, for panellist and Trinidadian research analyst, TeHilla Maloney, special treatment should not be given to political leaders as she underscored the need for individual responsibility and the consistent enforcement of social media guidelines.

“Nobody should be above these platform guidelines. Nobody should, just because you are a president, start a riot or do whatever you want to do. If you violate the guidelines, you are off,” said Maloney.

david.salmon@gleanerjm.com