• Reading Level 5
Science | History | Art & Design | Citizenship | PSHE | Relationships and health

Celebrities boycott social media for a day

Are celebrities right to boycott social media? Some big names turned off Facebook and Instagram yesterday to protest against fake news, but many say they are hitting the wrong target. Yesterday, a Who’s Who of celebrities — including Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio — participated in a 24-hour boycott of Facebook and Instagram. “I can't sit by and stay silent,” explained Kardashian West, who has 188 million Instagram followers and makes up to $500,000 per sponsored post, "while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation.” The boycott was organised by Stop Hate For Profit, a coalition of non-profit organisations that wants social media companies to remove false and inflammatory material from their websites. The campaign previously convened an advertising boycott, in which over 1,000 companies withdrew their advertising from Facebook in July. Amid the negative publicity, the tech giant's shares slipped by 8.3% and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a $7.6bn blow to his personal fortune, though both soon shot back up. Perhaps to prevent a similar storm, Twitter this week announced a US Election Hub team to label misinformation. For its supporters, the celebrity exodus strikes a symbolic blow against the corrosion of a civil society, especially as it comes from those who economically benefit from social media. It comes at a stormy time for democracy as fake news threatens to warp people’s views. Social media has provided fertile ground for extreme and fraudulent content. One 2018 MIT study found that fake news spreads six times faster on Twitter than on traditional news media. “I believe,” said comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, “that our pluralistic democracies are on a precipice… and the role of social media could be determinant.” As social media supplants journalism – a 2019 Ofcom report found that 49% in Britain now get their news from social media – some argue that owners should be required to act like publishers, selecting and editing content, so that their users can rely on them to provide truthful information. Others argue that the boycotters seek to shut down free speech. Social media, they say, is essentially an amplification of human gossip. Controlling what people write on Facebook or Twitter is no less totalitarian than restricting what people can say to each other in private. There remains the issue of troll farms, where groups intentionally abuse social media to achieve particular political objectives. Many believe the responsibility for eliminating such groups should lie with lawmakers, not corporations. “If we were starting from scratch,” wrote Zuckerberg himself last year, “we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgements alone.” By asking Facebook to regulate its networks, the boycotters are effectively calling for an unelected 36-year old entrepreneur to exert even more power over our lives — which would itself be a corrosion of democracy. So, are celebrities right to boycott social media? Silent treatment Naturally, some proclaim. Democracy is being undermined by a raft of lies and hate. In magnifying extreme voices and spreading fake news, social media bears a significant part of the blame. Those who control social media companies have a duty to moderate the information that appears on their platforms — especially as politicians are among those seeking to exploit them for their own ends. Absolutely not, declare others. By calling for tech CEOs to police their networks, the celebrities are ceding the very democracy they wish to defend to unelected entrepreneurs, who represent the interests of their companies rather than society at large. They should instead channel their complaints through elected politicians – democracy’s problems should be resolved through democratic means. Keywordsmisinformation - Intentionally inaccurate and misleading information.

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register