The impact of social media’s influence on the world cannot be disputed. Many people focus on the benefits that social media has provided. Social media has changed the course of communication, business and human connection. I would agree, there are many benefits which social media provides.
As with everything in life there is another side that must be acknowledged as well. What people do not choose to acknowledge is the gross lack of responsibility within social media. Social media provides a level of anonymity for people, and with that comes a lack of accountability and responsibility for what is broadcast by individuals. The lack of responsibility within social media has allowed something that in many ways can benefit society to be used to facilitate malicious and criminal acts. Many businesses enjoy benefits that social media offers.
Free advertisement is a huge incentive for businesses with limited budgets especially in todays’ economic climate. Unfortunately the same vehicle that provides those benefits also can be used to cause irreparable damage. With anonymity, people can write and post reviews, comments and complaints about businesses on social media sites. People can use these sites to say whatever they want about any business. Once a review is written it is posted fore everyone to see. Without any way to validate these reviews it is uncertain how legitimate and authentic they can be.
Libel and slanderous comments can be made and there is very little anyone can do about it. Unfortunately businesses are not the only victims. Children’s picking on children is hardly news worthy, however since the accessibility of social media sites, bullying has gone from being an aggravation for children at school to an incessant torment. Children who were just picked on at school are now tormented even within the safety of their homes. The lack of responsibility demonstrated by these children both at school and through social media led to catastrophe in 2010.
In 2010, thirteen suicides were attributed to bullying at school and through social media sites the youngest of these was a 13 year old boy. These tragic deaths were the catalyst for change on a national level. As reported by Clary (2012) in his article published by St Joseph’s News, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House hosted a conference to address bullying. The Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced to Congress in March of 2011.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act requires schools to collect and report information on bullying; establish notification and grievance procedures for students and parents; as well as prohibit bullying and harassment by instituting discipline policies for such behavior. Unfortunately it took the senseless deaths of these 13 children to focus national attention on this growing dilemma. Recently social media has been used to facilitate even more despicable behavior. Whether you are updating your Facebook status about an upcoming weekend getaway or Tweeting that you are headed to the mall, this information is being used to target you.
Chatting about a weekend trip could be an unintentional invitation to having your home burglarized. Posting personal information about you could open the door of opportunity to have your identity stolen. Social media has played a role in the commission of pirating, theft, fencing and fraud, however it gets worse. There are more violent and infamous crimes to which social media has been an accomplice. According to Leddy in his article, featured in the Boston Globe (2009), the Craigslist Killer used social media to target victims for robbery and murder.
Drug trafficking organizations use social media to dispense their products. Child predators use social media to identify, target and meet their victims, which then are molested or raped. Additionally social media is also used to aid in the interstate transfer and transmission of child pornography. As previously stated there are undoubtedly, benefits provided by social media. Any reasonable person that reads of these crimes or hears the news coverage must also acknowledge the correlation of anonymity provided by social media and the referenced criminal conduct.
Without social media sites becoming more responsible and accountable for their content the criminal element will continue to use these sites to facilitate their abhorrent behavior.