One of the most significant inventions in human history is “The Internet”. However, in recent years, it has gone amiss and everyone worldwide has felt it. Internet is available for everyone, while social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc are present to communicate. Today, it is challenging to understand if the individuals present online are friends or enemies. For better ad conversion, our presence on social media is constantly under supervision. There is a constant fear of clicking something that might be a fraud.
This is mainly due to the incapability of large tech companies such as Google, and Facebook to conduct proper verification and protection of identities. The reason why they don’t is that they have no incentives to conduct them. Moreover, it suits them best, thanks to the Communications Decency Act of Section 230, passed in 1996 by the Congress of the United States.
This is going to change soon, after the case of Gonzalez vs. Google, the Supreme Court might imply regulations on the internet, that will change the way social platforms work today. The main question that arises is if it is going to kill social platforms that we all use today. This brings a perfect opportunity for blockchain technology to enter the industry and take over social media platforms.
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Will the Future of the Internet Change?
One of the acts taken for the early development of the internet is Section 230. It states that the web platforms are not lawfully responsible for the content posted by the users. Therefore, social media platforms such as Twitter, and Facebook can publish anything the user post. On 3rd October 2022, the Supreme Court announced that two cases were filed that might change the future of the internet.
Twitter Inc Vs. Taamneh, and Gonzalez Vs. Google both involve Anti-Terrorism Acts. However, in Section 230, under the Communications Decency Act, the tech platforms are shielded from lawsuits for hosting and decreased user content. The main question that comes up with section 230, is whether online services are protected from lawsuits based on recommendations build by their algorithms.
The main question is if section 230 is making its way to the Supreme Court, what’s at stake?
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Gonzalez Vs. Google: What’s at Stake?
In the early months of October, Supreme Court takes up a case that puts forth a huge question to the social platforms including the internet if it’s liable to boost the terrorist organization information which reportedly radicalized ISIS supporters into conducting a terrorist attack around Paris in 2015 that killed several people including Nohemi Gonzalez.
Supreme court might hear the defense from the online service companies under Section 230, Communications Decency Act formed in 1996. Mostly as it provides protection under such claims against online services. It is also the first time since 1996, that the Supreme Court has taken Section 230 into consideration and might change the way the modern internet works.
The plaintiff in the case believes that behind the death of his daughter Nohemi Gonzalez, the internet plays a vital role in violating the Anti-Terrorism act by communicating ISIS content, radicalizing the recruits, and facilitating the mission. He also believes that the algorithms developed by YouTube, and Google such as “recommended ISIS videos for users”, are bringing the terrorist organizations to recruit and conduct attacks such as the one that took place in Paris in 2015.
Under Section 230, YouTube gets a lot to cover. Since a single video can reach millions of users, any violent video posted by a user can serve many users without taking any actions against it. While processing if the video’s content is violating the platform, it will already do a lot of damage. However, the users of the platform and the platform itself are protected under Section 230.
The question is, what happens to platforms like YouTube when Section 230 is removed? Will more than five hundred hours of content be under the review queue before reaching the public to view? Or, will it still get published as it does now? Now imagine the legal actions taken against copyrights, defamatory words even if uttered once, or encouraging violence.
Worldwide Prediction for Social Media in Coming Years
While the Gonzalez case is focused on the United States, the issue is a global concern. Several other countries are also looking for ways to regulate social media platforms. France for example lately ordered their manufacturers to install parental controls in every computer and smart gadget to collect minor data for commercial uses.
Another country, the United Kingdom found the algorithm of Instagram to be officially a contributor to the suicide of a teenage girl. There are global authoritarian regimes where their government is imposing strict censorship regulations against trolls and posts that lead to mistrust and misinformation. The majority of social media accounts lack proper identity verification which makes the situation worse.
Several people might file lawsuits against large tech firms. In today’s world, social media might be legally responsible for content posted on their platforms with content moderators and an army of editors to check every word and image posted on these sites. With the number of content that has been posted on social media platforms in recent years, it might be impossible to do the edits.
Pulling off the thread of Section 230 will entirely flip over the business models that are responsible for the growth of social media. The platforms will be liable for in limited supply of user build content as the strong privacy laws will limit their ability to collect huge user data content. The concept of social media will require a total re-engineering.
It can be a huge opportunity. In 1996, the internet comprised smaller message boards and static websites. It was not possible to predict that the development of such sites would question the safety and freedom of people one day. Privacy is a fundamental right of people and so are their social activities. At the same time, it is important to keep people safe from terrorists, and scammers. However, in today’s internet, the users are viable to both issues. Therefore, there has been a debate over a better and healthier social platform that will include both security and privacy.
Protect and verify identities, the best way to achieve both is by implementing blockchain technology. The zero-knowledge technology allows for verifying important information such as age, qualification, and others. However, it will not allow the revealing of any other personal information. Decentralized Identifiers, Soulbound Tokens, and other Non-fungible tokens will enable an individual to port a particular cryptographic identity across any social media platform in the future.
This can be a huge solution for safety in our social, personal, work, and school lives. The adult contents can be age-restricted and any leads to misinformation can be traced back to the users. Section 230, if pulled might bring destruction, however, if constructive approaches are made, it can be a golden ticket to a better future for the internet.