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Twitter cracks down on platform manipulation – but is this enough?

ByRuby Goodall

Mar 3, 2020

Last week social media powerhouse Twitter suspended over 70 accounts on the grounds of ‘platform manipulation’ all of which were linked to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election.

The accounts were created recently in support of presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and were posting copious amounts of pro-Bloomberg content and propaganda which is a breach of Twitter’s rules and regulations.

Whilst for most of us November 2020 seems a long way off, the presidential hopefuls have already launched their ferocious campaigns in a bid to become the next President of the USA. Mr Bloomberg’s social media heavy campaign however has been slightly derailed by this public denouncement by Twitter who said “we have taken enforcement action on a group of accounts for violating our rules against platform manipulation and spam”.

Unlike in the UK, the spending budget for political campaigning does not have a standardised cap, and former New York City Mayor Mr Bloomberg was reported to have spent over one million US dollars a day on Facebook advertisements alone in the run up to his Primary Elections earlier this year, not to mention the bombardment of television and social media ads with which his campaign pelted the US public with.

His social media heavy tactics however have been deemed unethical and unlawful on this occasion, one of the first high profile instances of the social media platform themselves stepping in to remove such content.

Closer to home, the UK has been well aware of the dangers of social media manipulation and the pressure which comes from ‘fake news’ and ‘trolling’ due to the tragic suicide of well-known TV presenter Caroline Flack earlier this month. Flack, 40, who had spent her entire working career in the media industry was more exposed to the cruel world of social media than most, never more so than when she became the presenter of controversial reality TV show ‘Love Island’, which has already come under criticism as two of its former contestants also recently died from suicide.

The questions raised mean that society are beginning to consider: with who does the responsibility for these deaths lie. Evidently it is mainly down to those writing and sending the abusive messages, however; the social media platforms themselves are now being scrutinised for their lack of intervention and policy regarding ‘trolling’ and ‘fake news’.

Many believe that the likes of Twitter and Facebook should have stringent regulations in place to prevent this harmful content from being posted in the first place, however others worry that giving the platforms too much control over what is posted encroaches upon the freedom of speech of the users. Furthermore the question of bias and manipulation could be turned around to the platforms themselves who must decide what is acceptable to post.

The use of social media platforms and advertisements to spread fake news and propaganda is not unique to the US in terms of politics as many will recall the various slogans and promises plastered across buses and filtered through Instagram and Twitter feeds by both sides of the Brexit Referendum campaigns.

This move by Twitter is a significant step in the right direction for regulating the misleading, false and potentially harmful spread of information that takes place daily across all forms of social media, the question remains however as to how far the regulatory measures will be able to go without losing support from their users.

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