Mendenhall: Stop Highlighting Problematic Content Creators

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Claire Peterson

(Design by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Addison Mendenhall, Opinion Writer

 

Social media is Gen Z’s primary source of entertainment and current events. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter help individuals amass a limitless following, and according to the Creator Report, there are 4.2 billion social media users and 200 million content creators. With such large followings, influencers can share controversial and damaging opinions without losing their audiences.

While content creators are entitled to their own opinions, we need to draw the line when their intended messages are hurtful, dangerous or attack a specific demographic. When social media users deem content creators problematic and “cancel” them, platforms take their time banning, reviewing videos and temporarily suspending accounts. Instead of continuing to profit from drawing in viewers, social media platforms must act faster to remove harmful messages from popular content creators.

What Constitutes Problematic Content?

Problematic online behavior is difficult to define, but one of the biggest problems with social media is lack of safety and promotion of hateful ideologies. Grooming and oversexualization has increased online, and because of TikTok’s “For You Page” function, predators and predatory influencers can continuously interact with videos of children they wish to prey on. And aside from grooming, there’s blatant misogyny, bigotry and discrimination online too.

Since the creation of platforms like YouTube, there has been a stream of racist allegations towards content creators. One such creator, Jenna Marbles, decided to quit YouTube after several racist videos she created resurfaced. Despite her apology statement, the videos were viewed by her 20 million subscribers because YouTube failed to remove them.

Another issue social media platforms attempt to fight is gender-based violence, but the problem still manages to disproportionately affect social media audiences. In the U.S. alone, it is reported that around 33% of women experience online harassment of some kind. This includes physical and sexual assault threats, sexist comments and revenge pornography. Instances of online sexual harassment have led women and girls away from social media platforms.

Questionable Creators in Action

When considering the safety of content consumers, dialing in on specific creators is extremely important. Andrew Tate, for example, has been a hot topic lately. He was recently banned from Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok for a slew of hateful messages stemming from toxic masculinity. Tate targets young boys with his misogynistic views on women, and some of his videos have been viewed over 1 million times before platforms pull them down.

In one particular video, Tate said, “If I were to get on a plane, and that plane was to fly into the eye of a hurricane, there was a 50% chance of it crashing, I’d want a male pilot because I think that males are better under stress and under pressure.” Another time, he said, “I think the women belong to the man.”

Harmful ideologies like the ones Tate share make individuals feel unsafe on social media platforms. Tate’s fans have gone out of their way to bombard those who speak out against him with hateful and horrible comments. Supporting a threatening content creator can lead to entitlement of protecting them no matter what. In a world where this behavior is being normalized, it’s shocking that social media platforms don’t intervene sooner.

What Should be Happening?

There’s no point in allowing users to flag and report videos that violate guidelines if social media platforms fail to take necessary action against them. Although it is undeniably difficult to manage every single problem platform-wide, something needs to be done to address and limit problematic online content.

Instagram will implement a “nudge” feature in certain countries that will prompt users to switch browsing topics after seeing similar content for extended periods of time. Their hope is to “exclude certain topics that may be associated with appearance comparison.” But Instagram is one of the few social media platforms trying to improve their apps.

Instagram’s effort gives me hope for the future, but all content platforms need to dedicate more attention to these issues before problems escalate further. Gen Z, our generation, will continue to rely on social media as an important source of information. Every social media app, platform and website needs to recognize their role in fostering problematic online content, and implement efforts to fight it.

 

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@addsmendenhall