Becoming a media master: How social media giants control what we consume

“Becoming a Media Master” is an opinion column about media literacy. (TESS PETERS/THE VISTA).

It is likely you consume an abundance of news on social media platforms. However, a recent change by Facebook is affecting the news industry in a negative way: removal of the news tab in some European countries. 

Since Facebook is not promoting the free press in all of Europe, some news sites have dropped over 99% in website referrals. In 2023, traffic to news sites on Facebook fell 48% and fell 27% on X, according to a report by the Reuters Institute. 

With over 2 billion daily active users and still growing. Facebook (Meta) is the largest social media platform in the world and owns the second largest traditional social media platform, Instagram (YouTube is a video service and WhatsApp is a messaging service although both are classified as social media apps and more populated). 

Formerly known as Twitter, X’s emphasis on free speech has gained infamy for becoming a place where hate and misinformation/disinformation thrive. Recently though, Facebook also received public scrutiny for its algorithm failing to remove content denying the Holocaust. 

With access to billions of people and often serving as many people’s main source of information, these companies have a responsibility to not mislead their consumers. Legally though, they can do whatever they want within the boundaries of the law. The laissez-faire market of America allows social media platforms to make their own individual rules. 

Despite the open market, corporatism may be on the rise as some of the biggest platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have worked with government intelligence agencies in the past. The Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that it cannot direct non-government-owned companies, but can provide warnings. Further collaboration between the government and social media can either improve or suppress the free press. 

Negative consequences on accurate information through social media platforms have already begun, such as the stopping of professional news promotion and deep-fake AI generation. Given this first-time modern problem, cross-referencing information and verifying sources hold more significance now. 

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