Facebook vs Politics and Twitter vs India
The growing political influence of social media platforms
If the medium is the message than social media platforms wield a tremendous amount of political power. Unfortunately most people focus on the content of the medium, rather than the transformative effect of the media itself.
Yet with social media it does feel as if we’re reaching a tipping point where we can collectively acknowledge the important and powerful role that these platforms play in our political discourse and in relation to our political systems and institutions.
Which makes it ironic that Facebook has decided to suppress political content on their platform.
Of course Facebook is not using the framing I am, rather they’re suggesting that this is not only a desirable feature among users, but one that they will be able to have agency in, vis a vis their interaction with the algorithm.
However I prefer to use the phrase suppressing political content, as that will be the effect of this change.
It’s also meant to be a distraction from deeper structural issues.
Facebook is an advertising platform above and beyond their status as a dominant communications platform. It is their advertising business that requires greater scrutiny and restructuring. How people communicate on their platform is secondary to how those same people are targeted by ads.
Facebook is inherently political, and any attempt to discourage or inhibit behaviour on their platform is itself inherently a political act.
I elaborated on this on a segment from Thursday’s show.
Meanwhile, in India, Twitter has found itself stuck between the Indian government and the ongoing farmers protest.
Twitter has been going back and forth with the Indian government trying to dodge, then comply, then defy, and then sort of comply with orders to block or ban pro-farmer Twitter users.
Part of the issue is potential harm to Twitter staff in India, and it’s partly why the company ended up complying, even though they argue they did so with some reservations or exceptions.
The pressure on Twitter staff in India has been such that many of their staff have been resigning, including their head of public policy in India.
For more on this subject, check out the segment from the Metaviews show.