In our modern world today, almost everyone knows and uses social media. In fact, most people might even say they can’t live without it. The average person spends over five years of their life on social media using websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and many more.
We use social media so often, but do we know exactly what it is and where it all began? The textbook definition of social media is websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. More commonly though, most people would define social media as the ability to use the internet to share and connect with others almost instantly. If we go by this definition, social media can be traced back to one website, the first social media website called ‘Six Degrees.’
This website was launched in 1997 and allowed its users to create a profile and then virtually p befriend other users. From Six Degrees on, the internet emerged into the era of instant messaging and blogging. LinkedIn was another website that was one of the first social media websites. A lot of social networking sites today are inspired from and are similar to LinkedIn. Even though both of these websites paved the way for the future of social media, the person who gets credited with the true invention of social media is Mark Zuckerberg. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, which went on to become one of the most influential websites of our time. Even after all these years, Facebook is still the number one social networking site, boasting over a billion users.
The launch and popularity of Facebook prompted the creation of various other well known social media’s such as: Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, and Snapchat in 2011. All of these social media services are extremely popular but the three largest providers of social media services are as of August 2018 are, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Facebook has 2,230,000,000 monthly active users and has a market share as of September 2018 of about 67%. YouTube has 1,900,000,000 monthly active users and a market share of about 77.54%. Instagram has 1,000,000,000 monthly active users and a market share of about 68%.
With the popular use of these of these social media websites comes major issues and scandals. Since its initial launch, Facebook has been under fire for various scandals, specifically involving privacy issues. The most recent scandal involving privacy that sparked debate in the news, started in mid-March. News broke out that Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data-mining firm with ties to U.S. President Donald Trump, lifted the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of users without their consent in an attempt to sway elections. The crisis appears to have proven the anxiety people feel about Facebook’s enormous rule over daily life and its huge data trove. It also is the revelation that Russia used the service to meddle in U.S. elections. Most importantly, it has deepened concerns about Facebook’s ability to avoid being exploited to spread propaganda and sway election decisions. This crisis was so prominent that even Washington had involvement. Congress has been interested in increasing regulation on Facebook due to its popularity and the neber ending list of issues it’s facing. That includes data privacy, false or misrepresented news, and Russian meddling in U.S. elections. As a result of this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg began a two-day congressional inquisition with a public apology for a privacy scandal that has rocked the social media empire he founded over a decade ago. Zuckerberg opened his remarks before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees by taking responsibility for failing to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, from gathering personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections. As a result of this case, legislation to regulate social media companies is now a possibility. Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the technology industry “has a responsibility” to protect its users and said “the status quo no longer works.” I agree with this statement because the people and companies who are in charge of these social media outlets, should be responsible for the privacy concerns of its users. Lawmakers have been highly critical of social media companies’ efforts to rein in fake information and other privacy problems. Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said a broad bipartisan majority in Congress likely will back new regulation on social media. Warner stated that the Intelligence Committee is working on writing a social media report that possibly will include a variety of options for Congress to consider.
With Facebook in the news for all the wrong reasons, many people may overlook Facebook’s photo-oriented sibling, Instagram. This is definitely not correct since Instagram is also owned by Facebook, and it exploits user’s data for ad targeting much like Facebook. Instagram permits advertisers to build detailed profiles describing their preferred targets, using scores of categories and subcategories ranging from your political preferences, to education level, and whether or not you are young. Using this information, advertisers can target specific groups of people on Instagram for disinformation and exploitation just like they did on Facebook. Another problem that is even more prominent on instagram then Facebook, is using companies using controversial “sponsored” ad photos to sway opinions on political elections and target customers. Instagram is contributing to the spread of these contriversial ads. Yet the platform continues to operate without much criticism. Even amid the crisis facing its parent company Facebook, Instagram remains extremely beloved among users and marketers alike. Instagram is expected to grow nearly 11% to $8.06 billion in ad revenue in 2018, which is about 16.5% of Facebook’s total revenue. Just as they are for Facebook, government officials are interested in regulating the exploitation of user’s information and privacy online. One again, I agree that social media companies are responsible to protect its users’ privacy in the United States and all across the globe.
With the increase of popularity of social media comes the need for an increase in social media companies taking responsibility for problems. If these problems continue without social media companies taking responsibility for problems occurring on their websites, then the future of social media will change rapidly. New laws and legislation will have to be set in place in order to protect the rights of the users of every social media. This may be a detriment to some advertising companies and political campaigns, but it will be a benefit to the users themselves.