Social media professor sees challenges ahead for tech industry

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 7:30 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Many are discussing the role of social media in American political discourse following last week’s riots in Washington D.C. The role of tech companies and their relationship to social media platforms have been widely debated.

A national conversation has arisen in recent weeks about the role of social media in our civic and political life. This has been largely sparked by President Donald Trump’s removal from Twitter -- with the company citing violations in community standards, along with fears that the President’s rhetoric could incite further violence following the takeover of the U.S. Capitol last week. The social media platform Parler has also drawn attention, after being cut off by major providers like Google and Amazon.

Former Professor of Social Media Survey Barbra Looney of Black Hills State University said that the unique way that Parler monitors its content makes it easier for fringe ideas to gain traction.

“Parler used a different tactic, from my understanding, of using a jury of citizens, not necessarily hired by Parler or working with Parler, but different subsets of people who would review content and then vote to determine whether something should be censored or not,” Looney said.

Governor Kristi Noem has actively promoted Parler in the past, calling it a ‘haven for free speech.’ Noem used her account to condemn the violence at the Capitol last week. However, Many of the comments on that post applauded the violence, with one even calling for the hanging of “all government officials and congressmen.”

Looney said that one of the challenges going forward is the issue of social currency and the addictive nature of social media.

“There’s that certain kind of person with an emotion that needs and appreciates that feedback, and all the platforms feed that,” Looney said.

Looney says it’s difficult for the curriculum’s in Social Media education to keep up with the rapidly expanding landscape of the industry.

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