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Social Media and Extremism: Do We Really Want to Control It?

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A man in Havanna check his smart phone. Phones with internet recently arrived in Cuba (Photo: YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man in Havanna checks his smart phone. Phones with internet recently arrived in Cuba. (Photo: YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

Social media platforms have been called out on several occasions for not controlling the content that is posted within the confines of their cyber walls. They have been accused by many of playing a role in the radicalization of individuals and contributing to so-called lone wolf attacks.

Most young people today communicate frequently through the numerous and readily-available social media platforms, which wield a large influence on their lives.

Just watch a couple of adolescents sitting next to each other. Even though there is a human being to engage with sitting right next to them, they appear to be much more interested in whatever is entertaining them on their phones. They share funny videos or a message or photo that was just received from another friend. It is as if they are incapable of finding something to discuss without reflecting on what their device is going to feed them for that moment.

As adults, our society has looked toward social media platforms to take responsibility for ensuring that violent information or “terrorist” information is taken down before it has been shared to a greater part of the population. We often hear various speculations as to how much of an investment should be made and responsibility taken for the platform being used for the dissemination of what we call extremist propaganda. But is that really the answer?

In the end, we could debate all avenues of information available to the public. But can or should we actually control what information is being put out to everyone over the airways? Whether it be videos, chat rooms, written articles or podcasts, it comes down to how we digest and perceive the information.

And if we actually could control everything, who gets to make the final decision as to what is appropriate to be shared or what has crossed the boundaries into a criminal area that should be blacklisted?

At some point, we have to be responsible and accountable as human beings as to what we do with the information we have access to. Most importantly, we have to teach the up-and-coming generation how to pick everything apart and make informed decisions as to what belief systems or ideologies to adopt.

Everything in our world today is a shared responsibility. Only together can we really put an end to the hatred and violence.

 

Join one of Clarion’s Preventing Violent Extremism training sessions 
and learn how you can do something to make us all safer.

 

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Christianne Boudreau

Christianne Boudreau is a contributor to Clarion Project.