In today’s world where people get their news from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google, ethical standards reasonably come into question. Entire internet platforms are now starting to notice the impact they have on public opinion, and are starting to take a stand for what they feel is right.
Take, for example, last month’s decision by Google to recognize Palestine, switching its status from Palestinian Territories to Palestine throughout all its platforms. This simple move created controversy around several media outlets, but Google stood by its decision and left Palestine in the search platform without the added term “Territories.” Google’s decision was a powerful statement not only for the people of Palestine, but also to the global observing audience.
The Google team seems to continue to review international issues, acknowledging the power they have over the information they provide. No longer a simple search engine, Google has become a multimedia hub of information.
Last week, Google decided to take down a blog page that belonged to a rebel group in Colombia called the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Following Google’s action, Facebook also decided to take down the FARC’s Facebook page. I can only assume that it felt the urgency to act on the FARC now that the Colombian government and the rebel group are involved in peace talks.
As much of a supporter of free speech as I am, I applaud these media outlets for the decisions they are making, especially when it comes to rebel groups such as the FARC. The FARC, I must add, is a communist rebel group that the Colombian government has categorized as a terrorist organization. While its members have slogans that preach peace and justice to the Colombian people and to the international community, they kidnap, murder, and terrorize civilians to defend their “cause.” In the mean time, the FARC promotes their “cause” of a just communist society through internet platforms based in the U.S., the very capitalist nation it claims to hate.
The FARC is not an isolated case. In just the same way it uses social media to promote its cause, so too can other groups around the world. With such an overload of information, and the perils of misinformation, people must be careful about where they get their news from, and who they are sharing it with.
This brings me to the Middle East and the ongoing protests against the current Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A movement that started as a peaceful protest by environmental groups has turned into a full-on antigovernment protest. This happened due to some of Erdogan’s policies taking an authoritarian turn. Instead of changing policy in a democratic fashion, Erdogan has implemented changes on a whim.
The changes Erdogan has introduced have an Islamic undertone that some fear would threaten Turkey’s secular traditions. However, Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, and the Muslim population should also be free to practice their religion. Some of Turkey’s traditional policies have turned so secular that they have threaten the ability to practice religion freely. Such policies include the banning of headscarves in universities and government buildings since the 90s. This ban was introduced in the fight for secularism in the country, but this policy has infringed the right of Muslim women to cover their hair while going to the university.
This complicated balancing act of secularism in a predominantly Muslim country should not be spoken about lightly. Issues are not as simple to explain as they might seem, and trying to simplify complicated issues can be misleading and dangerous. Turkey is not Libya under Gaddafi, and bloggers shouldn’t portrait it as such. Bloggers and journalists need to engage in thorough research before they go onto influential social media platforms and post about issues that they don’t really understand.
Although we are all entitled to our own opinions, social media outlets need to start considering the information they are giving others. I am optimistic, noting the actions taken by these giant internet platforms, that some responsibility trends and standards can begin to form with regards to what people post, and what repercussions those posts may have.