Here in Canada we’re in the middle of a rather silly and distracted discussion around the regulation of social media. Which is tragic, as it is an important and timely issue, but not one that is being dealt with as such by anyone currently involved.
Over the weekend, the federal government tried to defend its efforts, led via the beleaguered cabinet minister driving the process.
Last week there was concern that individuals would be subject to regulation, which the government denied, but then contextualized.
This neither clarified nor addressed the larger concerns critics have with this legislation.
Yet a larger question that is worth teasing out, is whether influencers ought to be regulated? Whether a social media user with a large following is a kind of broadcaster?
Previously on Metaviews we’ve written on:
Yet nothing on regulating influencers.
Should influencers be subject to regulation as broadcasters?
Currently influencers are not subject to regulation as they're treated as individuals, but this is a mistake, given their power and audience size.
The larger question however is how they should be treated, categorically. Are they broadcasters, or advertisers, or both? Are they content, or are they intermediaries connecting their audience with advertisers? How we regard influencers is important if they are to be regulated, or if we’re even entertaining the idea.
The audience that influencers has is unique, interactive, and is not reflective of a traditional broadcaster, and therefore the comparison may not be the best fit.
Do influencers actually influence our society and culture? For example should Canadian influencers be rewarded, subsidized, or supported as part of their contributions to culture?
The role of an influencer is important as the influencers can influence the audiences opinion and behavior patterns. Yet to what end? Generally, an influencer's role is to support brands and companies by using their media platforms to influence people to buy products or services from the brands.
Yet does that merit regulation? Maybe? Depends?
The issue here is the power of influencers and not whether they are comparable to an increasingly outdated regulatory concept but how that power is used and abused.
With modern technology, many are now taking to social media with the intent to broadcast their own brand’s messaging whether it is negative or positive. In short, it is about a ‘personal revolution’ as influencers use their online presence as a marketing and branding tool. Yet obviously some of those individuals go on to become corporations, whether benign like Mr Beast or chaotic evil like Jake Paul.
Would regulating influencers also create the opportunity for publicly funded influencers who try to influence us about public policies? Shudder the thought.
Yet what if we were to revisit the idea we got from Dwayne Winseck, that social media companies are best regulated like banks:
In this sense, influencers would not be regulated as broadcasters, but rather as brokers.
Which makes sense. Influencers as real estate agents rather than newscasters.
Brokers in the attention economy trying to sell you a time share that you can’t really afford but with attentional interest rates being what they are, what’s another TikTok video before bed?