There have been many red flags in the past decade that indicate we need more content regulation to patrol the vast universe that exists within our internet.
- Children watching inappropriate content.
- Illegal use of social media.
- Political and social movements influenced by fake content.
- Criminals using video and audio as a platform to spread their harm.
Many social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, have claimed to have made changes to improve safety and quality – but the lasting effects remain unclear.
Big names like Mark Zuckerberg have made calls for increased regulation of online content to tackle harmful, incorrect messaging. At the Munich Security Conference this year, he stated that better governance of the internet would benefit everyone, and yet we still don’t know what that regulation might be.
Today, we want to talk about the real possibility of content regulation in the future, as well as upcoming changes that might affect the way our content is policed and evaluated.
What regulations will impact the space of content creation, advertising, social media, and general marketing as we know it?
1. It’s A Global Problem, Receiving Global Attention
Let’s start with the fact that internet usage (and regulation) isn’t a problem localized to certain countries – or certain brands. Millions upon millions of people can access the worldwide web from wherever they live or travel, and that brings with it a global awareness that many political and social issues don’t have.
Conversations are happening on a global scale about the issue of government internet regulation. The European Commission has openly stated that the internet can cause potential harm and can be misused for criminal activity, as well as political disruption. They claim that the European Union is stressing the “need for urgent action and concrete solutions” in regards to the internet and content-based regulation.
In a similar vein, the USA has made an effort to further regulate all electronic communication through the Federal Communications Commission. There’s been a constant battle between staying in line with the free speech principle, which means the country has minimal content regulations, but some regulations for general internet usage.
Around the world, from China to India, Mexico, or anywhere, governments are all asking the same question: what should we be doing to protect citizens and the government, and where do our regulation boundaries lie?
2. The Biggest Fears About An Unregulated Internet
When discussing internet regulations, we aren’t just talking about the fear of fake news or the hatred for duplicate, uninformative content – officials are thinking on a much higher level.
The European Union released a paper on “Illegal and harmful content on the Internet” which details some of the biggest concerns shared by governments in regards to an unregulated internet:
- Matters of national security, including terrorist activity
- The protection of minors from violence, harmful content marketing, and pornography
- Racial hatred or discrimination
- Economic security due to fraud and pirating
- Information security and hacking
- The protection of privacy and personal data
- The protection of reputations from libel or unlawful activity
- Intellectual property distribution and monitoring
Have you watched the Netflix docuseries called Don’t F*ck With Cats? Has your Facebook account ever been hacked? Do you know someone whose identity has been stolen after shopping online or creating an account somewhere?
Concerns about government regulation can be found everywhere, from mothers with young children to high-up government officials who fear for the safety of their countries. As a result, regulation efforts in regards to different types of media are a conversation that anyone can have.
When it comes to brands that will be affected by potential strict content regulation, any and all could be impacted. However, we foresee a substantial impact on bloggers, news outlets, and health organizations.
Speaking of health brands, you can already see strides being made toward heavy content regulation when it comes to holistic medicine. Google and other platforms are being careful to monitor for content that makes bold claims such as “CBD cures cancer” or “essential oils will treat coronavirus.”
Phrases like those will get you in serious trouble – but will regulations like this continue to grow to encompass more brands from different industries?
3. There’s A Push To Protect The Children Of The Future
Because almost every American, European, and Asian citizen is already on the internet, the bulk of the internet’s growth is coming from developing countries today. In these places, it’s estimated that one in every two internet users is a child.
It’s not just developing countries that are facing issues with child internet usage and exposure to harmful content, though.
Children everywhere are being exposed to indecent media content and coming in contact with dangerous situations via the internet. YouTube videos, chat rooms, and even written content can pose a risk. If there’s one thing that will spark a global movement, it’s the fear for our children.
According to the Global Threat Assessment, online child sexual exploitation and abuse has been increasing faster than our current methods of prevention and response.
Although we would hope that parental monitoring and safety procedures would be enough to protect minors, that’s simply not the case. Both companies and governments are calling for efforts that are more proportionate to the risk minors face online every day.
The real question is, whose responsibility is it to protect children from website content? Is it a state responsibility? A national one? Or is it the role of technology companies to improve protections?
These general questions are asking brands, and content creators, to think about who will view their content and how that could potentially affect them. After all, isn’t it everyone’s job to protect the youth of the future?
4. On the Flip Side: Many Think Government Shouldn’t Be Involved
As the coronavirus has become big news (and the hot topic of every social media site), there have been serious questions about how to prevent the spread of misinformation. Is it the government’s job to step in during a time of crisis? Or is that up to individual companies?
Many social media platforms, including Facebook and Pinterest, are doing their part to stop the spread of misinformation about the virus. Still, some question if the government needs to step in to prevent panic and promote the welfare of the general public.
Others strongly believe that the government has no place in regulating any social media content. As John Samples wrote, “Preventing harms caused by ‘fake news’ or “‘hate speech’ lies well beyond the jurisdiction of the government; tech firms appear determined to deal with such harms, leaving little for the government to do.”
In countries with the right to free speech, does the government really have a right to determine what information is correct? Well, it depends on who you ask, but a large chunk of the public would give you a resounding “NO.”
How Realistic Is a Real Regulation?
Now, we’ll get down to the question you really came here to answer: will online content really become more regulated and policed in the years to come? Will marketers have to make big shifts in how they produce content?
The answer is complicated. As you can see from the information above, there are dozens of different elements to consider: the right to free speech, the protection of minors, the involvement of government to preserve national security.
As of 2020, it seems that there isn’t one universal model that will work for regulating the internet. This doesn’t mean that regulations won’t increase – it just means that each country, company, and the individual will face different regulation challenges and protocols.