Across the world, the family and friends of terror victims are still mourning the loss of loved ones stripped from the world too soon. In many of these cities – including Paris, Brussels, and across Israel and the United States – these families are looking for Someone to Blame … and they seem to have found a common enemy in social media, particularly giants like Facebook and Twitter.
Multiple lawsuits in many different countries allege that social media sites allow terrorists easy access to communication and recruitment tools they would not have otherwise. These suits claim the sites have not done enough to combat terrorism or to restrict the use of their sites to foment or facilitate terror attacks. Even though these suits have not suggested how the sites have erred or what they should do, specifically, to fix the “problem,” public pressure is building to push the media sites toward Doing Something about the problem. But, what, exactly?
Twitter claims to be working hard to not only spot terrorists or terror sympathizers online but also to restrict their access to the sites. Already the company says it has suspended “hundreds of thousands” of user accounts in less than the past two years. Predictably, attorneys for the victims say that isn’t nearly enough. They want the social media sites to pay damages for “failing to stop violent extremists” from using their sites to plan attacks, radicalize the curious or recruit followers.
According to the Associated Press, one attorney for some of the victims likens the social media sites’ responsibility to that of a bank hired to conduct a wire transfer: “If you or I tried to send money to Hamas, you wouldn’t get around the block… Banks are required to check before they do any wire transfers. Why is it any different to provide a communications platform to Hamas, to ISIS?” While Facebook and Twitter may say that’s not a fair comparison, that message may be lost on users who are desperate to see some action done to curb terrorism online, and who now have a metaphor they can easily identify with.
Message control is vital to the process of capturing public sentiment in any issue of debate. Part of that process includes transmitting a message that is easily absorbed and understood by those you are trying to convince. Make it too complicated, stale or lifeless, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the one in “the right” you will likely still lose their interest and their support. But if you can communicate your position in a way that is easy to understand, connect with and share with others, you will have much better luck getting your message heard, understood and accepted.
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