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Take the Sting Out of Social Media

Written by: Isabelle Rupani / February 19, 2024

We recently had a congressional hearing of social media companies where our elected officials berated the tech executives for not doing enough to protect our children on their platforms.  The proceedings were painful to watch and even featured Mark Zuckerberg offering a heartfelt apology to parents whose children have been severely harmed by the platforms.  This reminds me of a fable I once heard as a child.

Once upon a time, a scorpion wanted to cross a river, but being unable to swim, it asked a fox for help. The fox was hesitant, knowing the scorpion's reputation for being venomous. However, the scorpion pleaded, promising not to harm the fox, and convinced the fox to carry it across the river on its back.

Midway through the journey, the scorpion stung the fox. Shocked and hurt, the fox asked, "Why did you sting me? Now we will both drown!"

The scorpion replied, "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the tech executives.  I can only imagine they are human and do feel a sense of responsibility and a desire to do something to make the situation better.  Many of the executives are parents themselves.  However, these platforms are commercial enterprises and are built to generate the most return for their investors.   Like the scorpion, it’s also in their nature to be engaging and addictive to keep our kids on their platforms.   Oftentimes the most provocative, controversial, and vile content yields the most engagement and the algorithms happily serve them up to anyone it thinks will engage the most.  Like the scorpion in the fable, asking social media companies to change is just counter to their nature.

Knowing that, we need a new approach.  Modifying Section 230, the provision that protects companies that host user-creates content from lawsuits over posts on their services, would be a good start.  Allowing certain classes of lawsuits will change the economics and create more urgency to take down or downgrade harmful content.   This measure would address situations like the Roberts family who requested the removal of a video due to its connection with the tragic death of their daughter. Despite their request, the social media company neglected to act for several months.   We can also do more to limit access to social media for kids and require more stringent age verification technology.

Gryphon, one of the approach that have works for many families is to enable parents with the technology to take back control over their internet.   We’ve made it our mission to use technology like AI and advanced network firewalls simple to use that can be installed in minutes in any home to made the internet a safer environment.    As Dr. Vivik Murthy said on a 60 Minutes interview, “What’s at stake is our children’s future.”  So we need to get this right no matter the cost.  

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