The Effects of Social Media on the Freedom of Expression

The influence of social media in the world today cannot go unnoticed, more so in relation to the freedom of expression that it carries. This is because people on social media platforms are free to express themselves, and also to share their ideas. Discussed below are the effects of this freedom and also the challenges that accrue as a result of the same, according to Reza Jamali.

The advent of social media has seen the users get the opportunity to freely express their opinions and ideas on the topics that affect them.  This is because social media gives the people a sense of wisdom that was not there before. In states where the freedom of expression is deprived of, social media has given the people a channel to freely express and also comment on other people’s ideas too. Social media is easily accessible thus people are able to post their views on these social platforms, and other people are able to see and give their views on the same. Social media is used by those with liberal ideas, where they share their views. Those that share the same view will fall in favor of the post. Social media hence brings people with similar concerns together, and when they are one entity, they are able to effectively voice their concerns. The citizens are thus able to find a way to go round their government’s suppression.  For instance, activists in Tunisia used the online social media forum to decry the disrespect of freedom of speech in the country. Social media facilitates the formation of connections, facilitates mobilization and initiates conversations. This, in turn, solicits global attention since the information in circulation advocates for awareness, which leads to the taking of necessary actions and the provision of the necessary assistance. 

 

A lot of people are information and media literate. People thus tend to check news websites for trending news in a bid to stay updated. In the past, people only got information from one source. This source was mostly controlled by the government. Today, however, social media has opened a channel where people can get informed and have access to many sources of news. This undermines the ability of the government to pass on the wrong information to the masses. The people are able to know the achievements that the government has made as well as the wrongs that it has implemented. As such, the people get informed on what is exactly going on, thereby not having to rely on the government’s side of the story. This ensures that the governments become more accountable and transparent in their operations.

As much as social media has championed for the freedom of expression, it can be used to further deliberate hostile acts so whatever course is being followed is successful. Social media is very effective in soft war. It can hence be used to achieve objectives that would have otherwise required conventional methods to achieve. The number of persons using social media continues rising. This means that the number of people who value transparency is also on the increase. These people will require the government to be responsive as well as transparent. They will thus use the internet to fuel a revolution that will earn them a better life. Most of the people using the social media are the youth. Young people often have a problem with the status quo and hence are prone to be carried by the soft war current. Social media acts as a very useful platform for the waging of soft war. This can be seen with the following: The successful waging of a soft war requires the effectiveness of several aspects that are involved in the society. Political and social aspects are very important, but the cultural aspect carries the most weight towards the achievement of a soft war. This is because soft war involves toying with the minds of the rivals, which makes them come together thinking that they are facing a common enemy. Soft war aims at minimizing or completely avoiding violence. It seeks to impose behavioral patterns and influence the outcomes of elections as. Soft war also affects the decision- making process. Thus, the rival has no choice but to surrender, and by doing so, he accepts the imposed conditions. Soft war is also very complex in the sense that it cannot be measured. It also involves the people taking part acting as friends to their rivals but in the real sense, they only conspire to achieve their objective. Soft war also includes everyone. At this moment, anyone in any social group can participate. Soft war is very serious. It can be used by the citizens to compel the government to undertake fundamental changes. It can thus lead to positive change, but its ambiguous nature paves way for lead to regrettable changes.

Reza Jamali shows that social media has brought more of social war than freedom of expression. I agree with him on that. The effects of soft war are far much felt than those of freedom of expression. There are many uprisings in the Arab countries, many of which are triggered by the soft war, and more so the influence social media has on the same. It is difficult to differentiate between a real and fake revolutionary group. Thus, the quest for making a government accord its citizens this right is also very hard. This is because the government can easily penetrate into social media and thus know the plots that the activists are making. The effect of social media on the gaining of freedom of speech is big, but not as much as that on soft war.  As such, it is evident that the influence of social media on soft war towers over the freedom of speech.

Reza shows that the interpretation of the message depends both on the reader and the author. He says that the government used to convey information on its achievements and hide its failures. The negative news would not be heard at all. But nowadays, people do get information from various sources. When the news was only being released by the government, the people did interpret the text, but they conceived the meaning that the government intended. When social media came into existence, people started getting news from many sources. Here he shows that people would interpret the text in the manner that the author wanted. He also says that reactions to the message on killing corrupt leaders would be affected by gender and level of education. As such, the interpretation would not be determined by the source of the message but the reader. He says that the highly educated and the women would not jump into conclusion by liking or tagging such a post, but would rather comment. He also claims that educated people and those with high media literacy levels will analyze issues from a different perspective and thus their interpretation of the message will not be influenced by the author, but by themselves. Reza’s view contradicts that of Bakhtin, Cervantes and Barthes. Bakhtin says that the interpretation of a text solely depends on the reader, and the author bears no influence in the meaning perceived. Barthes says that the interpretation of a text is solely up to the reader, with the author having no say in the issue, whatsoever. Cervantes, on the other hand, shows that an author cannot determine the meaning that will be perceived by the reader. He also argues that the creativity of the reader plays a part in the interpretation of a text. Reza shows that people come together on social media because they have a common interest. They also avoid the people whose information contradicts the one that they already possess. That is why people will like posts that agree with their ideas and also join in revolutions that support their beliefs. He also shows that the meaning in social media is rendered by the author, but not the reader. This is because the people that want to get the message will follow the author and since they share a common interest, the reader will always perceive the author’s meaning.

In conclusion, it is evident that social media has granted people the freedom to express themselves. It has come to the rescue of people who live in countries that jeopardize the citizens’ right to express freely themselves. As a result, people in these countries come together on social media to pressure their governments to grant the right. When these complaints get into the limelight, they gain awareness and consequent support thus the governments have to give in to the demands of the people. It can be seen that social media plays a big part in informing people on the trending issues. This helps keep the governments on their toes in terms of transparency as well as responsiveness. However, social media can still be used to wage soft war on the government. Western countries can use these to their advantage so that they can benefit from the uprising. Although this can lead to the implementation of changes that will benefit the people, the wars are often not straightforward. In the process, very wrong decisions might be made in the name of implementing change. Therefore, care must be taken on the use of social media so that it does not end up doing more harm than good.

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Jun 26, 2020 in Socioligy
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