It is a fact that Social Media allows its users to insult, bully and threaten others without any fear of punishment. There has been a tremendous rise in popularity of social media in the recent past which has led to a radical change in communication especially online. For example a popular site like Facebook has over 750 million active users and communication amongst these users is not only convenient, but absolutely instantaneous allowing them to connect and communicate within seconds. With many people in the society adopting social media, hi-tech criminals have also sharpened their skills to commit new and classic professional crimes. According to Shelke and Badiye social media networks are web-based services that allow people to construct a public or somewhat public profile which then allows people to meet and communicate with strangers and form organized visible social networks. People usually hold an individual account which enables them to consume or distribute information. The person who publishes the information holds the account where the information appears and is the one who can controls it, thus one can publish anything without seeking permission from any person. It is clear that anyone who holds a social media account has the freedom of expression, no matter the message the content bears. In addition, the convenience brought by the web has led many people to understand that carrying out online crime is much easier and bares less risk of being caught and punished.
This article discusses the ways in which the social media has allowed its users to insult, bully and to threaten others without the fear of punishment. The purpose of this research paper is to demonstrate the fact mentioned above through the use relevant evidence.
The widespread use of Internet enabled gadgets in social media activities coupled with the ignorance of many social media users in matters cyber security is one reason why social media allows its users to abuse this platform. Many people across the globe can easily access social media sites via any gadget that is internet enabled. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are nowadays embedded on phones and even have particular allocated keys for easier access. Brunty and Helenek note that social media sites have been formatted to desktop versions that works in the desktops computers and mobile phone versions that are compatible with any phone model provided the phone has the ability to access the internet. Shelke and Badiye note that nearly everyone who is computer literate indulges in social network activities and they are contactable via at least one of the social media portals. Most of these users are unwary of online insecurity that criminals pose. This works to the advantage of the criminals since the victims do not know what and who is likely to compromise their accounts. Due to this fact the popularity of the social media sites has increased and therefore anybody who wishes to engage in the social media communication can do so with so much convenience. Communication through the social media usually involves sending messages and photos, online live chats and sending any other small documents in an instant. The people who share this information may be individuals or groups who have similar backgrounds and interests. The social media sites popularity and their features expose people to being bullied and insulted.
The concept of uncontrolled anonymity is another reason why social media platforms are misused. While some people may choose to use their real names on the social media others prefer fake profiles. To remain anonymous they create fake names, use other people’s photos and pretend to be that person. For example one can register on Facebook and Twitter using a fake name even when they know that it is against the ethics of social media use. Anyone wishing to join a social network needs to enter a name, email address and the date of birth. Once the information in these fields has been keyed in, there is no provision of a system that verifies the accuracy of the information. The state of anonymity enables them to insult, bully and threaten others without any fear of punishment because they are assured that they cannot be identified and cannot be linked to the accounts since the profile does not match their personal information. If this was happening in the real world one would have to face harsh consequences for treating people badly. Those who use their real names feel safe behind their keyboards due to the fact that they do not engage in a face to face communication and therefore they think they can get away with insulting others. Uncontrolled anonymity can also result into the audacity for a person to carry out Identity theft where criminals gain access to someone’s account and impersonate them. They then start sending the victim’s friends messages that appear to originate from the real account owner. They can also use the trust that your friends have in you to get more victims or work against you because they can get more information that they need from your friends. Cases of identity theft are common because in most cases the victims have no knowledge on how to protect their identity. With time, others who are enlightened grow comfortable with in social media interactions and forget that once some personal information goes into the internet it can be devastating if it lands on the wrong hands.
Consent infringement is another abuse of the social media. Another strategy that is exposing social media users to insults, bullying and threats is due to the fact that someone can be added into a group without their consent. The perpetrators of this action do so without fear of punishment. For example friends to a certain person on Facebook can add him to a group without his awareness. This is what bullies do to get connected to their target allowing them to insult and threaten their victim. Once they are connected, the criminals can publish false information about victim, publicize confidential information and photos or intimidate their victim. All these people need to know is the username of the person they are interested in. When people who have been friends or close fall out one can use social media against the other while seeking revenge. Washington notes that such a scenario can happen between employees who have been friends and had engaged in social media chatting. When they conflict, they can easily take their insults online. They harass their rival by posting hurtful comments about the rival’s physical features and even race or sexual orientation. In such a case the one who has been offended may insult or threaten the other via the social media simply because there is no satisfactory evidence to link him to the account that is being used. They are also aware of the fact that there are no stringent laws about such cases yet in place in most parts of the world where many internet criminals have gotten away with the crime. This increases their confidence that they can also hurt others without punishment.
Another fact that makes the criminals think that they can get away with the crime is that they do not consider interaction on social media to be real. They usually pass time by posting bad things about others. People who are frustrated in their lives see the internet as a place where they can vent their emotions because they remain anonymous. For example racists usually make members of the other race feel less human. The fear and panic that is triggered by such actions poisons the social media audiences’ mind and blinds the truth. As a result the stereotypes posts about a race prompt negative reactions of a greater magnitude such as bloody genocides. What starts as a harmless joke about a people offline can be fueled to violence once it goes online. In as much as the internet is a virtual world, interactions do not always stay online as they often spill into the real world.
From the discussion above it is clear that social media can be misused. The social media is a very necessary networking tool and it can be argued that it has enriched the lives of many through the fact that it enhances the feeling of belongingness hitherto only felt through personal interaction. To keep up with the growing demand, hundreds of social networking sites have been created and have attracted millions of users within a short span (Shelke and Badiye 2).However it is this very feeling of belongingness to a group or society that is being threatened when social media platforms are abused. This can result in devastating personal and societal effects if not checked correctly. In most cases when someone is insulted online, the case is never reported and this also lessens the fear of prosecution that the criminals might have. The complexity of evidence gathering in case of a law suit gives the criminals the nerve to do it again and again. Social media users also need to be educated on the proper use of the internet as far as their privacy and security of their account is concerned. There is need to challenge the guidelines that have been laid down to secure online social media platforms so that the criminals are discouraged. Therefore, the stakeholders in the social network sites need to step out and address issues that may compromise the privacy and security of their users.
From the values point of view, the use of social media to insult, threaten and bully others can be described as ethically suspect or outright immoral. When cyber relations are transferred to real world interaction where the value system is better defined then the abuse of social media is bound to be frowned upon and even punished. Criminals can easily disguise themselves and confidently execute cyber-social crime because social media sites never validate the personal information of their account holders. If such a thing were to happen in the real world, then the value system would address this problem rather effectively.
From the discussion above, it is very clear that social media can be used to insult, bully and threaten others without the perpetrators fearing some form of punishment. Whilst emphasis should be placed on the authorities and the various security apparatus in addressing this misuse, the onus really is on the social media community to act ethically, cautiously and actively against such abuses of this platform.
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