Social media app icons on a smartphone screen

Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation, sharing and aggregation of content, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks.[1][2] Common features include:[2]

The term social in regard to media suggests platforms enable communal activity. Social media can enhance and extend human networks.[6] Users access social media through web-based apps or custom apps on mobile devices. These interactive platforms allow individuals, communities, and organizations to share, co-create, discuss, participate in, and modify user-generated or self-curated content.[7][5][1] Social media are used to document memories, learn, and form friendships.[8] They may be used to promote people, companies, products, and ideas.[8] Social media can be used to consume, publish, or share news.

Popular social media platforms with more than 100 million registered users include X, Facebook, WeChat, ShareChat, Instagram, Pinterest, QZone, Weibo, VK, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, and LinkedIn. Depending on interpretation, other popular platforms that are sometimes referred to as social media services include YouTube, Letterboxd, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, TikTok, Microsoft Teams. Wikis are examples of collaborative content creation.

Social media outlets differ from old media (e.g. newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting) in many ways, including quality,[9] reach, frequency, usability, relevancy, and permanence.[10] Social media outlets operate in a dialogic transmission system (many sources to many receivers) while traditional media operate under a monologic transmission model (one source to many receivers). For instance, a newspaper is delivered to many subscribers, and a radio station broadcasts the same programs to a city.[11]

Observers have noted a range of positive and negative impacts from social media. Social media can help to improve an individual's sense of connectedness with others and be an effective communication (or marketing) tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, political parties, and governments. Social movements use social media for communicating and organizing. Social media has been criticized for a range of negative impacts on children and teenagers, including exposure to inappropriate content, exploitation by adults, sleep problems, attention problems, feelings of exclusion, and various mental health maladies.[12][13]

History

See also: Timeline of social media

Early computing

The PLATO system was launched in 1960 at the University of Illinois and subsequently commercially marketed by Control Data Corporation. It offered early forms of social media features with innovations such as Notes, PLATO's message-forum application; TERM-talk, its instant-messaging feature; Talkomatic, perhaps the first online chat room; News Report, a crowdsourced online newspaper, and blog and Access Lists, enabling the owner of a note file or other application to limit access to a certain set of users, for example, only friends, classmates, or co-workers.

IMP log for the first message sent over the Internet, using ARPANET

ARPANET, which came online in 1967, had by the late 1970s enabled exchange of non-government/business ideas and communication, as evidenced by the network etiquette (or "netiquette") described in a 1982 handbook on computing at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.[14] ARPANET evolved into the Internet in the 1990s.[15] Usenet, conceived by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis in 1979 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, was the first open social media app, established in 1980.

A bulletin board system menu, featuring opinion polls and a "Who's been on today?" query

A precursor of the electronic bulletin board system (BBS), known as Community Memory, appeared by 1973. Mainstream BBSs arrived with the Computer Bulletin Board System in Chicago, which launched on February 16, 1978. Before long, most major US cities had more than one BBS, running on TRS-80, Apple II, Atari, IBM PC, Commodore 64, Sinclair, and similar personal computers. CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL were three of the largest BBS companies and were the first to migrate to the Internet in the 1990s. Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, BBSes numbered in the tens of thousands in North America alone.[16] Message forums were the signature BBS phenomenon throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee integrated HTML hypertext software with the Internet, creating the World Wide Web. This breakthrough led to an explosion of blogs, list servers, and email services. Message forums migrated to the web, and evolved into Internet forums, supported by cheaper access as well as the ability to handle far more people simultaneously.

These early text-based systems expanded to include images and video in the 21st century, aided by digital cameras and camera phones.[17]

Social media platforms

SixDegrees, launched in 1997, is often regarded as the first social media site.

The evolution of online services progressed from serving as channels for networked communication to becoming interactive platforms for networked social interaction with the advent of Web 2.0.[6]

Social media started in the mid-1990s with the invention of platforms like GeoCities, Classmates.com, and SixDegrees.com.[18] While instant messaging and chat clients existed at the time, SixDegrees was unique as it was the first online service designed for people to connect using their actual names instead of anonymously. It boasted features like profiles, friends lists, and school affiliations, making it "the very first social networking site".[18][19] The platform's name was inspired by the "six degrees of separation" concept, which suggests that every person on the planet is just six connections away from everyone else.[20]

In the early 2000s, social media platforms gained widespread popularity with the likes of Friendster and Myspace, followed by Facebook, YouTube, and X.[21]

Research from 2015 reported that globally, users spent 22% of their online time on social networks,[22] likely fueled by the availability of smartphones.[23] As of 2023 as many as 4.76 billion people used social media[24] some 59% of the global population.

Definition

A 2015 review identified four features unique to social media services:[2]

In 2019, Merriam-Webster defined social media as "forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)."[25]

Services

Social media encompasses an expanding suite of services:[26]

Some services offer more than one type of service.[5]

Mobile social media

Mobile social media refers to the use of social media on mobile devices such as phones and tablets. It is distinguished by its ubiquity, since users no longer have to be at desk in order to participate on a computer. Mobile services can further make use of the user's immediate location to offer information, connections, or services relevant to that location.

According to Andreas Kaplan, mobile social media activities fall among four types:[27]

Elements and function

Virality

Main article: Viral phenomenon

Certain content has the potential to spread virally, an analogy for the way viral infections spread contagiously from individual to individual. One user spreads a post across their network, which leads those users to follow suit. A post from a relatively unknown user can reach vast numbers of people within hours. Virality is not guaranteed; few posts make the transition.

Viral marketing campaigns are particularly attractive to businesses because they can achieve widespread advertising coverage at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing campaigns. Nonprofit organizations and activists may also attempt to spread content virally.

Social media sites provide specific functionality to help users re-share content, such as X's and Facebook's "like" option.[28]

Bots

Main article: Internet bot

Bots are automated programs that operate on the internet.[29] They automate many communication tasks. This has led to the creation of an industry of bot providers.[30]

Chatbots and social bots are programmed to mimic human interactions such as liking, commenting, and following.[31] Bots have also been developed to facilitate social media marketing.[32] Bots have led the marketing industry into an analytical crisis, as bots make it difficult to differentiate between human interactions and bot interactions.[33] Some bots violate platforms' terms of use, which can result in bans and campaigns to eliminate bots categorically.[34] Bots may even pose as real people to avoid prohibitions.[35]

'Cyborgs'—either bot-assisted humans or human-assisted bots[35]—are used for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes, from spreading fake news to creating marketing buzz.[36][37][38] A common use claimed to be legitimate includes posting at a specific time.[39] A human writes a post content and the bot posts it a specific time. In other cases, cyborgs spread fake news.[35] Cyborgs may work as sock puppets, where one human pretends to be someone else, or operates multiple accounts, each pretending to be a person.

Patents

Main article: Software patent

A multitude of United States patents are related to social media, growing rapidly.[citation needed] As of 2020, over 5000 social media patent applications had been published in the United States.[40] Only slightly over 100 patents had been issued.[41]

Platform convergence

As an instance of technological convergence, various social media platforms adapted functionality beyond their original scope, increasingly overlapping with each other.

Examples are the social hub site Facebook launching an integrated video platform in May 2007,[42] and Instagram, whose original scope was low-resolution photo sharing, introducing the ability to share quarter-minute 640×640 pixel videos[43] (late extended to a minute with increased resolution). Instagram later implemented stories (short videos self-destructing after 24 hours), a concept popularized by Snapchat, as well as IGTV, for seekable videos.[44] Stories were then adopted by YouTube.[45]

X, whose original scope was text-based microblogging, later adopted photo sharing,[46] then video sharing,[47][48] then a media studio for business users, after YouTube's Creator Studio.[49]

The discussion platform Reddit added an integrated image hoster replacing the external image sharing platform Imgur,[50] and then an internal video hosting service,[51] followed by image galleries (multiple images in a single post), known from Imgur.[52] Imgur implemented video sharing.[53][54]

YouTube rolled out a Community feature, for sharing text-only posts and polls.[55]

Usage statistics

Main article: List of social platforms with at least 100 million active users

According to Statista, it is estimated that, in 2022, around 3.96 billion people were using social media globally. This number is up from 3.6 billion in 2020.[56]

The following is a list of the most popular social networking services based on the number of active users as of January 2024 per Statista.[57]

Social networking services with the most users, January 2024[58]
# Network Number of users (millions) Country of origin
1 Facebook 3,049 United States
2 YouTube 2,491 United States
3 WhatsApp 2,000 United States
3 Instagram 2,000 United States
5 TikTok 1,526 China
6 WeChat 1,336 China
7 Facebook Messenger 979 United States
8 Telegram 800 Russia
9 Douyin 752 China
10 Snapchat 750 United States
11 Kuaishou 685 China
12 X 619 United States

Usage: before the pandemic

A 2009 study suggested that individual differences may help explain who uses social media: extraversion and openness have a positive relationship with social media, while emotional stability has a negative sloping relationship with social media.[59] A 2015 study reported that people with a higher social comparison orientation appear to use social media more heavily than people with low social comparison orientation.[60]

Common Sense Media reported that children under age 13 in the United States use social networking services despite the fact that many social media sites require users to be 13 or older.[61] In 2017, the firm conducted a survey of parents of children from birth to age 8 and reported that 4% of children at this age used social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, or (now-defunct) Musical.ly "often" or "sometimes".[62] Their 2019 survey surveyed Americans ages 8–16 and reported that about 31% of children ages 8–12 use social media.[63] In that survey, teens aged 16–18 were asked when they started using social media. the median age was 14, although 28% said they started to use it before reaching 13.

Usage: during the pandemic

Usage by minors

Social media played a role in communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.[64] In June 2020, a survey by Cartoon Network and the Cyberbullying Research Center surveyed Americans tweens (ages 9–12) and reported that the most popular application was YouTube (67%).[65] (as age increased, tweens were more likely to have used social media apps and games.) Similarly, Common Sense Media's 2020 survey of Americans ages 13–18 reported that YouTube was the most popular (used by 86% of 13- to 18-year-olds).[66] As children aged, they increasingly utilized social media services and often used YouTube to consume content.

Apps used by U.S. tweens (ages 9–12), 2019-2020[65]: 39–42 
Platform Overall Boys Girls 9-year-olds 12-year-olds
YouTube 67% 68% 66% 53.6% 74.6%
Minecraft 48% 61% 35% 43.6% 49.9%
Roblox 47% 44% 49% 41.2% 41.7%
Google Classroom 45% 48% 41% 39.6% 49.3%
Fortnite 31% 43% 20% 22.2% 38.9%
TikTok 30% 23% 30% 16.8% 37%
YouTube Kids 26% 24% 28% 32.7% 22.1%
Snapchat 16% 11% 21% 5.6% 22.3%
Facebook Messenger Kids 15% 12% 18% 19.1% 10.4%
Instagram 15% 12% 19% 3% 28.8%
Discord 8% 11% 5% 0.7% 14.4%
Facebook 8% 6% 9% 2.2% 15%
Twitch 5% 7% 2% 1.0% 9.9%
None of the above 5% 6% 5% 9.6% 3.3%
Social media platforms used by U.S. kids in 2020 (ages 13–18) and 2017 (ages 10–18)[66]
Platform 2020 2017
YouTube 86% 70%
Instagram 69% 60%
Snapchat 68% 59%
TikTok 47% N/A
Facebook 43% 63%
X 28% 36%
Reddit 14% 6%
Another social networking service 2% 3%
Do not use social networking service 4% 6%

Reasons for use by adults

While adults were using social media before the COVID-19 pandemic, more started using it to stay socially connected and to get pandemic updates.

"Social media have become popularly use to seek for medical information and have fascinated the general public to collect information regarding corona virus pandemics in various perspectives. During these days, people are forced to stay at home and the social media have connected and supported awareness and pandemic updates."[67]

Healthcare workers and systems became more aware of social media as a place people were getting health information:

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media use has accelerated to the point of becoming a ubiquitous part of modern healthcare systems."[68]

This also led to the spread of disinformation. On December 11, 2020, the CDC put out a "Call to Action: Managing the Infodemic".[69] Some healthcare organizations used hashtags as interventions and published articles on their X data:[70]

"Promotion of the joint usage of #PedsICU and #COVID19 throughout the international pediatric critical care community in tweets relevant to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and pediatric critical care."[70]

However others in the medical community were concerned about social media addiction, as it became an increasingly important context and therefore "source of social validation and reinforcement" and were unsure whether increased social media use was harmful.[71]

Timeline of social media (1973–2023)

Main article: Timeline of social media

Year Platform Developer/Founder
1973 Talkomatic Dave Wooly, Douglas Brown
1997 SixDegrees.com Andrew Weinreich
1997 AOL Instant Messenger Barry Appelman, Eric Bosco, Jerry Harris
1999 Yahoo Messenger Jerry Yang, David Filo
1999 MSN Messenger Microsoft
1999 LiveJournal Brad Fitzpatrick
2002 Friendster Jonathan Abrams
2003 LinkedIn Reid Hoffman
2003 Myspace Thomas Anderson
2003 Skype Niklas Zennström, Janus Friis
2004 Facebook Mark Zuckerberg
2004 Orkut Orkut Büyükkökten
2005 YouTube Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim
2005 Reddit Aaron Swartz
2006 X Jack Dorsey
2006 VK Pavel Durov
2008 Nextdoor Nirav Tolia, Sarah Leary, Prakash Janakiraman, David Wiesen
2009 WhatsApp Brian Acton, Jan Koum
2010 Pinterest Ben Silbermann
2010 Instagram Kevin Systrom
2011 Snapchat Evan Spiegel
2011 Google+ Bradley Horowitz
2011 Twitch Justin Kan
2011 WeChat Allen Zhang
2012 Tinder Sean Rad
2013 Vine Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, Colin Kroll
2013 Google Hangouts Larry Page, Sergey Brin
2014 musical.ly Alex Zhu, Luyu Yang
2015 Discord Jason Citron, Stan Vishnevskiy
2017 TikTok Zhang Yiming
2020 Clubhouse Paul Davison, Rohan Seth
2020 BeReal Alexis Barreyat, Kévin Perreau
2023 Threads Meta Platforms

Use by organizations

Government

Governments may use social media to (for example):[72]

Law enforcement

Social media has been used extensively in civil and criminal investigations.[74] It has also been used to search for missing persons.[75] Police departments often make use of official social media accounts to engage with the public, publicize police activity, and burnish law enforcement's image;[76][77] conversely, video footage of citizen-documented police brutality and other misconduct has sometimes been posted to social media.[77]

In the United States, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identifies and track individuals via social media, and has apprehended some people via social media-based sting operations.[78] U.S. Customs and Border Protection (also known as CPB) and the United States Department of Homeland Security use social media data as influencing factors during the visa process, and monitor individuals after they have entered the country.[79] CPB officers have also been documented performing searches of electronics and social media behavior at the border, searching both citizens and non-citizens without first obtaining a warrant.[79]

Reputation management

As social media gained momentum among the younger generations, governments began using it to improve their image, especially among the youth. In January 2021, Egyptian authorities were reported to be using Instagram influencers as part of its media ambassadors program. The program was designed to revamp Egypt's image and to counter the bad press Egypt had received because of the country's human rights record. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated in similar programs.[80] Similarly, Dubai has extensively relied on social media and influencers to promote tourism. However, Dubai laws have kept these influencers within limits to not offend the authorities, or to criticize the city, politics or religion. The content of these foreign influencers is controlled to make sure that nothing portrays Dubai in a negative light.[81]

Business

Main article: Social media use by businesses

Business uses social media for marketing, branding,[82] advertising, communication, sales promotions, informal employee-learning/organizational development, competitive analysis, recruiting, relationship management/loyalty programs,[27] and e-Commerce. Companies use social-media monitoring tools to monitor, track, and analyze conversations to aid in their marketing, sales and other programs. Tools range from free, basic applications to subscription-based, tools. Social media offers information on industry trends. Within the finance industry, companies use social media as a tool for analyzing market sentiment. These range from marketing financial products, market trends, and as a tool to identify insider trading.[83] To exploit these opportunities, businesses need guidelines for use on each platform.[3]

Business use of social media is complicated by the fact that the business does not fully control its social media presence. Instead, it makes its case by participating in the "conversation".[84] Business uses social media[85] on a customer-organizational level; and an intra-organizational level.

Social media can encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, by highlighting successes, and by easing access to resources that might not otherwise be readily available/known.[86]

Marketing

Main article: Social media marketing

Social media marketing can help promote a product or service and establish connections with customers. Social media marketing can be divided into paid media, earned media, and owned media.[87] Using paid social media firms run advertising on a social media platform. Earned social media appears when firms do something that impresses stakeholders and they spontaneously post content about it. Owned social media is the platform markets itself by creating/promoting content to its users.[88]

Primary uses are to create brand awareness, engage customers by conversation (e.g., customers provide feedback on the firm) and providing access to customer service.[89] Social media's peer-to-peer communication shifts power from the organization to consumers, since consumer content is widely visible and not controlled by the company.[90]

Social media personalities, often referred to as "influencers", are internet celebrities who are sponsored by marketers to promote products and companies online. Research reports that these endorsements attract the attention of users who have not settled on which products/services to buy,[91] especially younger consumers.[92] The practice of harnessing influencers to market or promote a product or service to their following is commonly referred to as influencer marketing.

In 2013, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) began advising celebrities to make it clear whether they had been paid to recommend a product or service by using the hashtag #spon or #ad when endorsing. The US Federal Trade Commission issued similar guidelines.[93]

Social media platforms also enable targeting specific audiences with advertising. Users of social media can share, and comment on the advertisement, turning passive consumers into active promoters and even producers.[94] Targeting requires extra effort by advertisers to understand how to reach the right users.[3] Companies can use humor (such as shitposting) to poke fun at competitors.[95] Advertising can even inspire fanart which can engage new audiences.[96] Hashtags (such as #ejuice and #eliquid) are one way to target interested users.[97]

User content can trigger peer effects, increasing consumer interest even without influencer involvement. A 2012 study focused on this communication reported that communication among peers can affect purchase intentions: direct impact through encouraging conformity, and an indirect impact by increasing product engagement. This study claimed that peer communication about a product increased product engagement.[98]

Politics

Main article: Social media use in politics

See also: Social impact of YouTube, Use of social media in the Wisconsin protests, and Social media and political communication in the United States

Social media have a range of uses in politics.[99] Politicians use social media to spread their messages and influence voters.[100]

Dounoucos et al. reported that X use by candidates was unprecedented during the US' 2016 election.[101][102] The public increased its reliance on social-media sites for political information.[101] In the European Union, social media amplified political messages.[103] Foreign-originated social-media campaigns attempt to influence political opinion in another country.[104][105][106]

Activism

Social media was influential in the Arab Spring in 2011.[107][108][109][110] However, debate persists about the extent to which social media facilitated this.[111] Activists have used social media to report the abuse of human rights in Bahrain. They publicized the brutality of government authorities, who they claimed were detaining, torturing and threatening individuals. Conversely, Bahrain's government used social media to track and target activists. The government stripped citizenship from over 1,000 activists as punishment.[112]

Militant groups use social media as an organizing and recruiting tool.[113] Islamic State (also known as ISIS) used social media. In 2014, #AllEyesonISIS went viral on Arabic X.[114][115]

Propaganda

State-sponsored Internet propaganda is Internet manipulation and propaganda that is sponsored by a state. States have used the Internet, particularly social media to influence elections, sow distrust in institutions, spread rumors, spread disinformation, typically using bots to create and spread contact. Propganda is used internally to control populations, and externally to influence other societies.

Recruiting

Social media use in hiring refers to the examination by employers of job applicants' (public) social media profiles as part of the hiring assessment. For example, the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use social media as a tool to screen prospective employees and as a tool for talent acquisition.[116]

This practice raises ethical questions. Employers and recruiters note that they have access only to information that applicants choose to make public. Many Western-European countries restrict employer's use of social media in the workplace. States including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin protect applicants and employees from surrendering usernames and passwords for social media accounts.[citation needed] Use of social media as caused significant problems for some applicants who are active on social media. A 2013 survey of 17,000 young people in six countries found that one in ten people aged 16 to 34 claimed to have been rejected for a job because of social media activity.[117][118]

Social media services have been reported to affect deception in resumes. While these services do not affect deception frequency, it does increase deception about interests and hobbies.[citation needed]

Science

Scientists use social media to share their scientific knowledge and research on platforms such as ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Facebook, X, and Academia.edu.[119] The most common platforms are X and blogs. The use of social media reportedly has improved the interaction between scientists, reporters, and the general public.[citation needed] Over 495,000 opinions were shared on X related to science between September 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011.[120] Science related blogs respond to and motivate public interest in learning, following, and discussing science. Posts can be written quickly and allow the reader to interact in real time with authors.[121] One study in the context of climate change reported that climate scientists and scientific institutions played a minimal role in online debate, exceeded by nongovernmental organizations.[122]

Academia

Academicians use social media activity to assess academic publications,[123] to measure public sentiment,[124] identify influencer accounts,[125] or crowdsource ideas or solutions.[126]

School admissions

In some places, students have been forced to surrender their social media passwords to school administrators.[127] Few laws protect student's social media privacy. Organizations such as the ACLU call for more privacy protection. They urge students who are pressured to give up their account information to resist.[128]

Colleges and universities may access applicants' internet services including social media profiles as part of their admissions process. According to Kaplan, Inc, a corporation that provides higher education preparation, in 2012 27% of admissions officers used Google to learn more about an applicant, with 26% checking Facebook.[129] Students whose social media pages include questionable material may be disqualified from admission processes.

"One survey in July 2017, by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, reported that 11 percent of respondents said they had refused to admit an applicant based on social media content. This includes 8 percent of public institutions, where the First Amendment applies. The survey reported that 30 percent of institutions acknowledged reviewing the personal social media accounts of applicants at least some of the time."[130]

Court cases

Social media comments and images have been used in court cases including employment law, child custody/child support, and disability claims. After an Apple employee criticized his employer on Facebook, he was fired. When the former employee sued Apple for unfair dismissal, the court, after examining the employee's Facebook posts, reported in favor of Apple, stating that the posts breached Apple's policies.[131] After a couple broke up, the man posted song lyrics "that talked about fantasies of killing the rapper's ex-wife" and made threats. A court reported him guilty.[131][clarification needed] In a disability claims case, a woman who fell at work claimed that she was permanently injured; the employer used her social media posts to counter her claims.[131]

Courts do not always admit social media evidence, in part, because screenshots can be faked or tampered with.[132] Judges may consider emojis into account to assess statements made on social media; in one Michigan case where a person alleged that another person had defamed them in an online comment, the judge disagreed, noting that an emoji after the comment that indicated that it was a joke.[132] In a 2014 case in Ontario against a police officer regarding alleged assault of a protester during the G20 summit, the court rejected the Crown's application to use a digital photo of the protest that was anonymously posted online, because it included no metadata verifying its provenance.[132]

Use by individuals

News source

Social media as a news source is the use of online social media platforms rather than moreover traditional media platforms to obtain news. Just as television turned a nation of people who listened to media content into watchers of media content in the 1950s to the 1980s, the emergence of social media has created a nation of media content creators. Almost half of Americans use social media as a news source, according to the Pew Research Center.[133]

As a participatory platform that allows for user-generated content[134][135] and sharing content within one's own virtual network,[136][134] using social media as a news source allows users to engage with news in a variety of ways,[137] including:

Using social media as a news source has become an increasingly more popular way for old and young adults alike to obtain information. There are ways that social media positively affects the world of news and journalism but it is important to acknowledge that there are also ways in which social media has a negative effect on the news that people consume such as false news, biased news, and disturbing content.

A 2019 Pew Research Center poll reported that Americans are wary about the ways that social media sites share news and certain content.[138] This wariness of accuracy grew as awareness that social media sites could be exploited by bad actors who concoct false narratives and fake news.[139]

Social tool

Social media are used to socialize with friends and family[140] pursue romance and flirt,[140] but not all social needs can be fulfilled by social media.[141] For example, a 2003 article reported that lonely individuals are more likely to use the Internet for emotional support than others.[142] A 2018 survey from Common Sense Media reported that 40% of American teens ages 13–17 thought that social media was "extremely" or "very" important for them to connect with their friends.[143] The same survey reported that 33% of teens said social media was extremely or very important to conduct meaningful conversations with close friends, and 23% of teens said social media was extremely or very important to document and share their lives.[143] A 2020 Gallup poll reported that 53% of adult social media users in the United States thought that social media was a very or moderately important way to keep in touch with people during the COVID-19 pandemic.[144]

In Alone Together Sherry Turkle considered how people confuse social media usage with authentic communication.[145] She claimed that people act differently online and are less concerned about hurting others' feelings. Some online encounters can cause stress and anxiety, due to the difficulty purging online posts, fear of getting hacked, or of universities and employers exploring social media pages. Turkle speculated that many people prefer texting to face-to-face communication, which can contribute to loneliness.[145] Surveys from 2019 reported evidence among teens in the United States[143] and Mexico.[146] Some researchers reported that exchanges that involved direct communication and reciprocal messages correlated with less loneliness.[147]

In social media "stalking" or "creeping" refers to looking at someone's "timeline, status updates, tweets, and online bios" to find information about them and their activities.[148] A sub-category of creeping is creeping ex-partners after a breakup.[149]

Catfishing (creating a false identity) allows bad actors to exploit the lonely.[150]

Invidious comparison

Self-presentation theory proposes that people consciously manage their self-image or identity related information in social contexts.[151] One aspect of social media is the time invested in customizing a personal profile.[152] Some users segment their audiences based on the image they want to present, pseudonymity and use of multiple accounts on the same platform offer that opportunity.[153]

A 2016 study reported that teenage girls manipulate their self-presentation on social media to appear beautiful as viewed by their peers.[154] Teenage girls attempt to earn regard and acceptance (likes, comments, and shares). When this does no go well, self-confidence and self-satisfaction can decline.[154] A 2018 survey of American teens ages 13–17 by Common Sense Media reported that 45% said likes are at least somewhat important, and 26% at least somewhat agreed that they feel bad about themselves if nobody responds to their photos.[143] Some evidence suggests that perceived rejection may lead to emotional pain,[155] and some may resort to online bullying.[156] according to a 2016 study, users' reward circuits in their brains are more active when their photos are liked by more peers.[157]

A 2016 review concluded that social media can trigger a negative feedback loop of viewing and uploading photos, self-comparison, disappointment, and disordered body perception when social success is not achieved.[158] One 2016 study reported that Pinterest is directly associated with disordered dieting behavior.[159]

People portray themselves on social media in the most appealing way.[154] However, upon seeing one person's curated persona, other people may question why their own lives are not as exciting or fulfilling. One 2017 study reported that problematic social media use (i.e., feeling addicted to social media) was related to lower life satisfaction and self-esteem.[160] Studies have reported that social media comparisons can have dire effects on physical and mental health.[161][162] In one study, women reported that social media was the most influential source of their body image satisfaction; while men reported them as the second biggest factor.[163] While monitoring the lives of celebrities long predates social media, the ease and immediacy of direct comparisons of pictures and stories with one's own may increase their impact.

A 2021 study reported that 87% of women and 65% of men compared themselves to others on social media.[164]

Efforts to combat such negative effects focused promoting body positivity. In a related study, women aged 18–30 were reported posts that contained side-by-side images of women in the same clothes and setting, but one image was enhanced for Instagram, while the other was an unedited, "realistic" version. Women who participated in this experiment reported a decrease in body dissatisfaction.[165]

Health

Further information: Cyberpsychology § Social media and cyberpsychological behavior, and Social media and identity

Adolescents

Social media can offer a support system for adolescent health, because it allows them to mobilize around health issues that they deem relevant.[166] For example, in a clinical study among adolescent patients undergoing obesity treatment, participants' claimed that social media allowed them to access personalized weight-loss content as well as social support among other adolescents with obesity.[167][168]

While social media can provide health information, it typically has no mechanism for ensuring the quality of that information.[168] The National Eating Disorders Association reported a high correlation between weight loss content and disorderly eating among women who have been influenced by inaccurate content.[168][169] Health literacy offers skills to allow users to spot/avoid such content. Efforts by governments and public health organizations to advance health literacy reportedly achieved limited success.[170]

Social media such as pro-anorexia sites reportedly increase risk of harm by reinforcing damaging health-related behaviors through social media, especially among adolescents.[171][172][173]

Pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, inaccurate information from all sides spread widely via social media.[174] Topics subject to distortion included treatments, avoiding infection, vaccination, and public policy. Simultaneously, governments and others influenced social media platforms to suppress both accurate and inaccurate information in support of public policy.[175] Heavier social media use was reportedly associated with more acceptance of conspiracy theories, leading to worse mental health[176] and less compliance with public health recommendations.[177]

Addiction

Social media platforms can serve as a breeding ground for addiction-related behaviors, with studies report that excessive use can lead to addiction-like symptoms. These symptoms include compulsive checking, mood modification, and withdrawal when not using social media, which can result in decreased face-to-face social interactions and contribute to the deterioration of interpersonal relationships and a sense of loneliness.[178]

Journalism

Journalistic influence has grown less important with the rise of social media, whereas social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and X, provide an alternative supply of news sources. Further, many users offer their own narratives about events, complicating the process of unearthing the truth.[179][180] An example of this is the response to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Media coverage of the incident was minimal until social media users elevated it. Only a month later, online coverage attracted national coverage from mainstream media.[181]

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying (cyberharassment or online bullying) is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means. It has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers and adolescents, due to young people's increased use of social media.[182] Related issues include online harassment and trolling. In 2015, according to cyberbullying statistics from the i-Safe Foundation, over half of adolescents and teens had been bullied online, and about the same number had engaged in cyberbullying.[183] Both the bully and the victim are negatively affected, and the intensity, duration, and frequency of bullying are three aspects that increase the negative effects on both of them.[184]

Sleep disturbance

A 2017 study reported on a link between sleep disturbance and the use of social media. It concluded that blue light from computer/phone displays—and the frequency rather than the duration of time spent, predicted disturbed sleep, termed "obsessive 'checking'".[185] The association between social media use and sleep disturbance has clinical ramifications for young adults.[186] A recent study reported that people in the highest quartile for weekly social media use experienced the most sleep disturbance. The median number of minutes of social media use per day was 61. Females were more likely to experience high levels of sleep disturbance.[187] Many teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation from long hours at night on their phones, and this left them tired and unfocused in school.[188] A 2011 study reported that time spent on Facebook was negatively associated with GPA, but the association with sleep disturbance was not established.[189]

Emotional effects

One studied effect of social media is 'Facebook depression', which affects adolescents who spend too much time on social media.[8] This may lead to reclusiveness, which can increase loneliness and low self-esteem.[8] Social media curates content to encourage users to keep scrolling.[186] Studies report children's self-esteem is positively affected by positive comments and negatively affected by negative or lack of comments. This affected self-perception.[190] A 2017 study of almost 6,000 adolescent students reported that those who self-reported addiction-like symptoms of social media use were more likely to report low self-esteem and high levels of depressive symptoms.[191]

A second emotional effect is social media burnout, defined as ambivalence, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. Ambivalence is confusion about the benefits from using social media. Emotional exhaustion is stress from using social media. Depersonalization is emotional detachment from social media. The three burnout factors negatively influence the likelihood of continuing on social media.[192]

A third emotional effect is "fear of missing out" (FOMO), which is the "pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent."[193] It is associated with increased scrutiny of friends on social media.[193]

Social media can also offer support as X has done for the medical community.[194] X facilitated academic discussion among health professionals and students, while providing a supportive community for these individuals by and allowing members to support each other through likes, comments, and posts.[195] Access to social media offered a way to keep older adults connected, after the deaths of partners and geographical distance between friends and loved ones.[196]

Researchers study Social media and suicide to find if a correlation exists between the two. Some research has shown that there may be a correlation.

Social impacts and regulation

Disparity

The digital divide is the unequal access to digital technology, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet.[197][198] The digital divide worsens inequality around access to information and resources. In the Information Age, people without access to the Internet and other technology are at a disadvantage, for they are unable or less able to connect with others, find and apply for jobs, shop, and learn.[197][199]

People who are homeless, living in poverty, elderly people, and those living in rural communities may have limited access to the Internet; in contrast, urban middle class and upper-class people have easy access to the Internet. Another divide is between producers and consumers of Internet content,[200][201] which could be a result of educational disparities.[202] While social media use varies across age groups, a US 2010 study reported no racial divide.[203]

Political polarization

See also: Political polarization

According to the Pew Research Center and others, a majority of Americans at least occasionally receive news from social media.[204][205] Because of recommendation algorithms that filter and display news content that matches users' political preferences, one potential impact is an increase in political polarization due to selective exposure. Political polarization is the divergence of political attitudes towards ideological extremes. Selective exposure occurs when an individual favors information that supports their beliefs and avoids information that conflicts with them. A 2016 study of U.S. elections revealed gender differences in the political use of X between candidates.[206] On social media women discuss policy issues at a higher rate than males. The study concluded that an increase in female candidates correlated to an increase in the amount of attention paid to policy issues, potentially heightening polarization.[207]

Efforts to combat selective exposure may increase political polarization. A study examining X activity paid Democrat and Republican participants to follow X users whose content was different from their political beliefs (Republicans received liberal content and Democrats received conservative content) over a six-week period.[208] At the end of the study, both Democrat and Republican participants were reported to have increased political polarization in favor of their own parties, though only Republican participants had an increase that was statistically significant.[208]

Though some research reported that social media increases political polarization, others reported that social media can persuade users to change their beliefs.[209][210] A 2016 online survey of 1,024 U.S. users reported that individuals who use social media were more likely to have their political beliefs persuaded than those who did not. In particular, those using social media as a means to receive news were the most likely to change their beliefs.[209] The persuasion reported by participants was influenced by their exposure to diverse viewpoints, in content they saw as well as political discussions they participated in.[209] Another similar 2016 study conducted with 189 university students examined the persuasive effect of watching a political comedy video on Facebook, reporting that after watching comedian/political commentator John Oliver, participants were likely to be persuaded to change their viewpoint on the topic (either payday lending or the Ferguson protests) to one that was closer to Oliver.[210] The persuasive effect was reported to be reduced if they viewed comments by Facebook users that contradicted Oliver.[210]

Research has also reported that social media use may not affect polarization at all.[211] A U.S. national survey of 1,032 participants reported that participants who used social media were more likely to be exposed to diverse people and opinions than others, although using social media was not correlated with a change in political polarization for these participants.[211]

A 2017 study examining the potential polarizing effects of social media on the political views of its users suggested that a new way of engaging with social media must occur to avoid polarization.[212] The authors stated that media literacy (described as methods that people can use to critique and create media) are valuable, and state that such skills must develop in order to be the most effective. In order to decrease polarization and encourage cooperation among social media users, Relevant skills included connecting with others in a caring way, embracing differences, and understanding the impact of social media on political, social, and cultural issues.[212]

Stereotyping

See also: Stereotype

A 2018 study reported that social media increases the power of stereotypes.[213] Stereotypes can have both negative and positive connotations. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, youth were accused of responsibility for spreading the disease.[214] Elderly people get stereotyped as lacking knowledge of proper behavior on social media.[215]

Communication

Social media allows for mass cultural exchange and intercultural communication, despite different ways of communicating in various cultures.[216]

Social media has affected the way youth communicate, by introducing new forms of language.[217] Novel acronyms save time, as illustrated by "LOL", which is the ubiquitous shortcut for "laugh out loud".

The hashtag was created to simplify searching for information and to allow users to highlight topics of interest in the hope of attracting the attention of others. Hashtags can be used to advocate for a movement, mark content for future use, and allow other users to contribute to a discussion.[218]

For some young people, social media and texting have largely replaced in person communications, made worse by pandemic isolation, delaying the development of conversation and other social skills.[219]

What is socially acceptable is now heavily based on social media.[220] The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that bullying, the making of non-inclusive friend groups, and sexual experimentation have increased cyberbullying, privacy issues, and sending sexual images or messages. Sexting and revenge porn became rampant, particularly among minors, with legal implications and resulting trauma risk.[221][222][223][224] However, adolescents can learn basic social and technical skills online.[225] Social media, can strengthen relationships just by keeping in touch, making more friends, and engaging in community activities.[8]

Content moderation

United States

Historically, platforms were responsible for moderating the content that they presented. They set rules for what was allowable, decided which content to promote and which to ignore. The US enacted the Communications Decency Act in 1996. Section 230 of that act exempted internet platforms from legal liability for content authored by third parties.

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)).

— US Congress, Communications Decency Act Section 230

European Union

The European Union initially took a similar approach.[226] However, in 2020, the European Commission presented two legislative proposals: The Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Both proposals were enacted in July 2022. The DSA entered into force on 17 February 2024, the DMA in March 2024.[227] This legislation can be summarized in the following four objectives, articulated by MEPs:

Violators could face a complete ban in Europe or fines of up to 6% of global sales. Such content moderation requires extensive investment by platform providers.[230] Enforcement resources may not be sufficient to ensure compliance.[231]

Tthe DSA allows a country to require information to be deleted that is illegal only in that jurisdiction.[232] For example, Hungary could require a video to be deleted that is in part critical of its government, but the video would then be unavailable in other EU countries as well.

Other regulatory approaches

2018 Nobel Laureate Paul Romer[233] advocated taxing negative externalities of social media platforms.[230] Similar to a carbon tax – negative social effects could be compensated for by a financial levy on the platforms.[234] Assuming that the tax did not deter the actions that produced the externalities, the revenue raised could be used to address them. However, consensus has yet to emerge on how to measure or mitigate the harms, nor to craft a tax, .

Another proposal is to invoke competition law.[235] The idea is to restrict the platforms' market power by controlling mergers ex ante and tightening the law. This would be achieved through a supranational enforcement mechanism and the deterrent effect of high fines.

Business models

The business model of most social media platforms is based on selling slots to advertisers. Platforms provide access to data about each user, which allows them to deliver adds that are individually relevant to them. This strongly incents platforms to arrange their content so that users view as much content as possible, increasing the number of ads that they see. Platforms such as X add paid user subscriptions in part to reduce their dependence on advertising revenues.[236]

Criticism, debate and controversy

The enormous reach and impact of social media has naturally led to a stream of criticism, debate, and controversy. Criticisms include platform capabilities, content moderation and reliability,[237] impact on concentration, mental health,[238] content ownership, and the meaning of interactions, and poor cross-platform interoperability,[239] decrease in face-to-face interactions, cyberbullying, sexual predation, particularly of children, and child pornography.[240][241]

In 2007 Andrew Keen wrote, "Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering."[242]

Trustworthiness and reliability

Social media has become a regular source of news and information. A 2021 Pew Research Center poll reported roughly 70% of users regularly get news from social media,[4] despite the presence of fake news and misinformation. Platforms typically do not take responsibility for content accuracy, and many do not vet content at all, although in some cases, content the platform finds problematic is deleted or access to it is reduced.[243][244][245] Content distribution algorithms otherwise typically ignore substance, responding instead to the contents' virality.

In 2018, researchers reported that fake news spread almost 70% faster than truthful news on X.[7] Social media bots on social media increase the reach of both true and false content and if wielded by bad actors misinformation can reach many more users.[10] Some platforms attempt to discover and block bots, with limited success.[11] Fake news seems to receive more user engagement, possibly because it is relatively novel, engaging users' curiosity and increasing spread.[23] Fake news often propagates in the immediate aftermath of an event, before conventional media are prepared to publish.[20][16]

Data harvesting and data mining

Social media mining is the process of obtaining data from user-generated content on social media in order to extract actionable patterns, form conclusions about users, and act upon the information. Mining supports targeting advertising to users or academic research. The term is an analogy to the process of mining for minerals. Mining companies sift through raw ore to find the valuable minerals; likewise, social media mining sifts through social media data in order to discern patterns and trends about matters such as social media usage, online behaviour, content sharing, connections between individuals, buying behaviour. These patterns and trends are of interest to companies, governments and not-for-profit organizations, as such organizations can use the analyses for tasks such as design strategies, introduce programs, products, processes or services.

Social media mining uses concepts from computer science, data mining, machine learning, and statistics. Mining is based on social network analysis, network science, sociology, ethnography, optimization and mathematics. It attempts to formally represent, measure and model patterns from social media data.[246] In the 2010s, major corporations, governments and not-for-profit organizations began mining to learn about customers, clients and others.

Platforms such as Google, Facebook (partnered with Datalogix and BlueKai) conduct mining to targe users with advertising.[247] Scientists and machine learning researchers extract insights and design product features.[248]

Users may not understand how platforms use their data.[249] Users tend to click through Terms of Use agreements without reading them, leading to ethical questions about whether platforms adequately protect users' privacy.

During the 2016 United States presidential election, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign, to analyze the data of an estimated 87 million Facebook users to profile voters, creating controversy when this was revealed.[250]

Critique of activism

Further information: Social media activism

Malcolm Gladwell considers the role of social media in revolutions and protests to be overstated. He concluded that while social media makes it easier for activists to express themselves, that expression likely has no impact beyond social media. What he called "high-risk activism" involves strong relationships, coordination, commitment, high risks, and sacrifice.[251] Gladwell claimed that social media are built around weak ties and argues that "social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires."[251] According to him, "Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice, but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice."[251]

Disputing Gladwell's theory, a 2018 survey reported that people who are politically expressive on social media are more likely to participate in offline political activity.[252]

Content ownership

Social media content is generated by users. However, content ownership is defined by the Terms of Service to which users agree. Platforms control access to the content, and may make it available to third parties.[253]

Different social media platforms.

Although platform's terms differ, generally they all give permission to utilize users' copyrighted works at the platform's discretion.[254]

After its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, Instagram revealed it intended to use content in ads without seeking permission from or paying its users.[255][256] It then reversed these changes, with then-CEO Kevin Systrom promising to update the terms of service.[257][258]

Privacy

Main article: Privacy concerns with social networking services

Privacy rights advocates warn users about the collection of their personal data. Information is captured without the user's knowing consent. Data may be applied to law enforcement or other governmental purposes.[259][253] Information may be offered for third party use.

Young people are prone to sharing personal information that can attract predators.[260]

While social media users claim to want to keep their data private, their behavior does not reflect that concern, as many users expose significant personal data on their profiles.

In addition, platforms collect data on user behaviors that are not part of their personal profiles. This data is made available to third parties for purposes that include targeted advertising.[261]

A 2014 Pew Research Center survey reported that 91% of Americans "agree" or "strongly agree" that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used. Some 80% of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers and businesses accessing the data they share on social media platforms, and 64% said the government should do more to regulate advertisers.[262] In 2019, UK legislators criticized Facebook for not protecting certain aspects of user data.[263]

In 2019 the Pentagon issued guidance to the military, Coast Guard and other government agencies that identified "the potential risk associated with using the TikTok app and directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information."[264] As a result, the military, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security banned the installation and use of TikTok on government devices.[265]

In 2020 The US government attempted to ban TikTok and WeChat from the States over national security concerns. However, a federal court blocked the move.[266] In 2024, the US Congress passed a low directing TikTok's parent company ByteDance to divest the service or see the service banned from operating in the US. The company sued, challenging the constitutionality of the ban.[267]

Addiction

Main article: Problematic social media use

See also: Digital media use and mental health

Internet addiction disorder (IAD), also known as problematic internet use or pathological internet use, is problematic, compulsive use of the internet, particularly social media, that impairs individual function over a prolonged period of time. Young people are at particular risk of developing internet addiction disorder,[268] with case studies highlighting students whose academic performance declines as they spend more time online.[269] Some experience health consequences from loss of sleep[270] as they stay up to continue scrolling, chatting, and gaming.[271]

Excessive Internet use is not recognized as a disorder by the World Health Organization, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). However, gaming disorder appears in the ICD-11. Controversy around the diagnosis includes whether the disorder is a separate clinical entity, or a manifestation of underlying psychiatric disorders. Definitions are not standardized or agreed upon, complicating the development of evidence-based recommendations.

Users under 30 access the Internet more than other age groups and experience a higher risk of overuse.[272]

In 2011 the term "Facebook addiction disorder" (FAD) emerged.[273] FAD is characterized by compulsive use of Facebook. A 2017 study investigated a correlation between excessive use and narcissism, reporting "FAD was significantly positively related to the personality trait narcissism and to negative mental health variables (depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms)".[274][275]

In 2020, the documentary The Social Dilemma reported the concerns of mental health experts and former employees of social media companies over social media's pursuit of addictive use. For example, when a user has not visited Facebook for some time, the platform varies its notifications, attempting to lure them back. It also raises concerns about the correlation between social media use and child and teen suicidality.[276]

Turning off social media notifications may help reduce social media use.[277] For some users, changes in web browsing can be helpful in compensating for self-regulatory problems. For instance, a study involving 157 online learners on massive open online courses examined the impact of such an intervention. The study reported that providing support in self-regulation was associated with a reduction in time spent online, particularly on entertainment.[278]

Debate over use by young people

Main article: Social media in education

Whether to restrict the use of phones and social media among young people has been debated since smartphones became ubiquitous.[279] A study of Americans aged 12–15, reported that teenagers who used social media over three hours/day doubled their risk of negative mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety.[280] Platforms have not tuned their algorithms to prevent young people from viewing inappropriate content. A 2023 study of Australian youth reported that 57% had seen disturbingly violent content, while nearly half had regular exposure to sexual images.[281] Further, youth are prone to misuse social media for cyberbullying.

As result, phones have been banned from some schools, and some schools have blocked social media websites.[282] In 2024, Florida banned the use of social media by minors.[283]

Censorship

Main articles: Internet censorship, Internet censorship in China, and Internet censorship in India

Social media often features in political struggles. In some countries, Internet police or secret police monitor or control citizens' use of social media. For example, in 2013 some social media was banned in Turkey after the Taksim Gezi Park protests. Both X and YouTube were temporarily suspended in the country by a court's decision. A law granted immunity to Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) personnel. The TİB was also given the authority to block access to specific websites without a court order.[284] Yet TİB's 2014 blocking of X was ruled by the constitutional court to violate free speech.[285]

In the 2014 Thai coup d'état, the public was explicitly instructed not to 'share' or 'like' dissenting views on social media or face prison. In July of that year, in response to WikiLeaks' release of a secret suppression order made by the Victorian Supreme Court, media lawyers were quoted in the Australian media to the effect that "anyone who tweets a link to the WikiLeaks report, posts it on Facebook, or shares it in any way online could also face charges".[286] On 27 July 2020, in Egypt, two women were sentenced to two years of imprisonment for posting TikTok videos, which the government claims are "violating family values".[287]

United States

Internet censorship in the United States is the suppression of information published or viewed on the Internet in the United States. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression against federal, state, and local government censorship.

Free speech protections allow little government-mandated Internet content restrictions. However, the Internet is highly regulated, supported by a complex set of legally binding and privately mediated mechanisms.[288]

Gambling, cyber security, and the dangers to children who frequent social media are important ongoing debates. Significant public resistance to proposed content restriction policies has prevented measures used in some other countries from taking hold in the US[288]

Many government-mandated attempts to regulate content have been barred, often after lengthy legal battles.[289] However, the government has exerted pressure indirectly. With the exception of child pornography, content restrictions tend to rely on platforms to remove/suppress content, following state encouragement or the threat of legal action.[290][288]

Intellectual property protections yielded a system that predictably removes infringing materials.[288][291] The US also seizes domains and computers, at times without notification.[292][293][294][295]

Decentralization and open standards

While the dominant social media platforms are not interoperable, open source protocols such as ActivityPub have been adopted by platforms such as Mastodon, GNU social, Diaspora, and Friendica. They operate as a loose federation of mostly volunteer-operated servers, called the Fediverse. However, in 2019, Mastodon blocked Gab from connecting to it, claiming that it spread violent, right-wing extremism.[296]

In December 2019, X CEO Jack Dorsey advocated an "open and decentralized standard for social media". He joined Bluesky to bring it to reality.[297]

Deplatforming

See also: Twitter suspensions

Deplatforming, (no-platforming), a form of Internet censorship of an individual or group by preventing them from posting on the platforms they use to share their information/ideas. This typically involves suspension, outright bans, or reducing spread (shadow banning) .[298][299]

As early as 2015, platforms such as Reddit began to enforce selective bans based, for example, on terms of service that prohibit "hate speech".[300] The most notorious examples of deplatforming were Twitter's ban of then-US President Donald Trump shortly after and the New York Post during the 2020 presidential election.[301]

Extremist groups

Main article: Terrorism and social media

According to LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,[302] the use of effective social media marketing techniques includes not only celebrities, corporations, and governments, but also extremist groups.[303] The use of social media by ISIS and Al-Qaeda has been used to influence public opinion where it operates and gain the attention of sympathizers. Social media platforms and encrypted-messaging applications have been used to recruit members, both locally and internationally.[304] Platforms have endured backlash for allowing this content. Extreme nationalist groups, and more prominently, US right-wing extremists have used similar online tactics. As many traditional social media platforms banned hate speech, several platforms became popular among right-wing extremists to carry out planning and communication including of events; these application became known as "Alt-tech". Platforms such as Telegram, Parler, and Gab were used during the January 6 United States Capitol attack, to coordinate attacks.[305] Members shared tips on how to avoid law enforcement and their plans on carrying out their objectives; some users called for killing law enforcement officers and politicians.[306]

Deceased users

Further information: Death and the Internet

Social media content, persists unless the user deletes it. After a user dies, unless the platform is notified, their content remains.[307] Each platform has created guidelines for this situation.[308] In most cases on social media, the platforms require a next-of-kin to prove that the user is deceased, and give them the option of closing the account or maintaining it in a 'legacy' status.

Guidelines for users who have died, by platform[308]
Platform Guideline
X[309] The company works with an immediate family member to deactivate the account. Additionally, X will not give the account to any other person, regardless of the relationship.
Facebook Users have the option of having their account permanently deleted after death. Users can identify a 'legacy contact' who would take over the account after.
Instagram[310] Users can have the account memorialized or deleted with proof of death.
LinkedIn[311] A family member can request that the account be deleted. The family member must identify the account, submit proof of relationship, the user's email address, date of death, a link to the obituary, and the name of the last company the deceased worked for.
Pinterest Must email the company with the URL of the account along with a death certificate or a link to the obituary, as well as proof of relationship to the deceased.
YouTube[312] A representative can close the account, transfer payments from the account to an immediate family member and legal representative of the user's estate, and can provide the data in the account to a family member. All three capabilities require the requestor's government-issued ID or driver's license, the decedent's death certificate, and additional supporting documentation.
WeChat The heir must supply the user's death certificate, authentication of family relationship. The successor can then obtain the assets.

See also

facilitates the building of relations

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Further reading