Can social media companies effectively self-regulate?

This time last year, Facebook released a statement acknowledging that about $100,000 in ads spent during the 2016 presidential election originated from Russian accounts. Although the ads did not endorse any candidate, they did focus on contentious social issues such as race relations and LBGT rights. Time During Mark Zuckerberg’s April testimony before Congress, he apologized that the Facebook platform played a role in Russian efforts to influence public opinions. Still, it seemed that the CEO was being pressed very little, more than anything because the interviewers demonstrated how little they understood about how social media works.  CNBC Facebook and Twitter this year purged false accounts from their rosters. Facebook made a pledge to develop an ID tool that recognizes inauthentic accounts and disables them. Twitter made less noticeable efforts though, it did purge a list of accounts this summer. Since these companies run on ad revenues and profitability is partly based on monthly active users (MAU) and growth, they do not have a particularly strong incentive to rid themselves of users. In fact, Twitter stock price dropped after the purge of 70 million accounts in July Forbes, citing previously inflated numbers caused by fake accounts. These are free services, and it is difficult to lay punitive blame on these companies based on quality control (QC) issues. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe download an app to use a service which, for all intents and purposes, is free entertainment. The best answer, right now, is to allow for them to self-regulate their platforms and to continue to develop security protocol in hopes that guarding their reputation among their users will be a strong enough incentive to fight coordinated efforts by foreign entities to influence our elections.

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