The Cost of Erasing History
We live in a world where privacy is becoming increasingly rare. Anything you say is available instantly for the world to see. Unless you happen to live off the grid (then you wouldn’t be reading this), anything you say, sober, under the influence of alcohol, emotion, or both — and voluntarily submit to social media — can be seen by anyone with an internet-connected device.
As a vehicle for free speech, social media is a godsend, but it’s also the platform for the regrets of many. We’ve all heard the stories of celebrities, brands, and everyday people who posted what they thought was an innocuous comment and immediately regretting their actions. Attempts to delete the posts proved useless because the masses had already shared it, spreading it across the web like a virus. And like some viruses, traces will remain.
We should all have the right to free speech. However, some things should not be shared, especially when it’s derogatory, hearsay, or downright insulting. I understand that off-the-cuff remarks could yield unwanted attention and criticism. Content that stirs a reaction and makes people think more deeply about a particular subject can be a good thing. On the flip-side, there are online trolls who make comments and spew negativity for the sake of attention and nothing else. Some of these trolls are celebrities and brands, which I won’t name here.
This is my idea: A penalty system should be implemented. While publishing on social media is for the most part free, there should be a cost associated with the removal of unfavourable posts. Why? Because then maybe people will think twice about what they say. Taking that idea a step further, add a cost structure related to how viral the post went — the more viral it was, the greater the cost to remove it. This idea can’t be too crazy since our society deals out penalties for various infractions and crimes. The same could be applied online. Perhaps the simpler and more straightforward alternative would be to simply charge for each post.
You might be thinking: What if a post went viral and was seen and subsequently shared by tens or hundreds of millions, and what if the cost to redact it was prohibitive? if the person who posted it can’t pay up, then they would be offered the only other option of suspending the account. This in itself can be a massive penalty to any person or brand that has built up their social profiles and have many followers. Imagine losing all that effort because of one post? There’s the other question of who would be in charge of collection the money. Who would the money benefit? I think it should be given to related charities that deal with anti-bullying, poverty, and marketing ethics to name a few.
We can stay on the course that we’ve been using until now; remove negative posts and/or suspend user accounts. However, by that point, the message has already been posted and most likely shared on social media on a global level. It’s the current conditions that we have to put up with, and until that changes, expect people to post for the sake of getting attention, or because they just weren’t thinking straight.
You can agree or disagree with this idea. Either way, I’d like to hear your thoughts. What ideas do you have to make people more responsible with their right to free speech on social media?
If you’re looking for some examples of social media posts backfiring on their creators, check out 19 Horrific Social Media Fails From The First Half of 2014.