Like you, I was horrified by the cowardly terrorist attack on our service members and Afghan civilians at the airport in Kabul at the end of August, which killed 13 of our brave military. I was equally saddened to learn that since the start of the war in Afghanistan twenty years ago, we have lost more than 2,400 of our armed forces there. A loss of 13 lives is tragic, and a loss of 2,400 lives is almost unbearable. Rightly, there is anger and calls for action from the highest levels of our government and our citizens. However, every day social media is causing the deaths of people throughout the world, including in the United States. Not “just” one death per day or even ten deaths per day but hundreds, if not thousands of deaths per day. And you barely hear a peep from anyone about it.
COVID is just one example where misinformation and disinformation on social media channels have directly led to sickness and, yes, the death of thousands of people. These posts have deadly results from social media posts about masks to vaccines to false “cures.” Every day.
The Capitol violence earlier this year is another well-known example of social media directly contributing to the deaths of Americans, let alone almost contributing to the end of our very democracy. Before that, we had social media posts amplifying false narratives about the candidates running for President, unfairly swaying votes and undermining faith in the electoral process. There are few things more significant than the death of America’s system of government, and if not for some brave Capitol police and some officials with an ethical and moral compass, social media almost enabled it to happen.
But putting aside these examples that are chilling to consider, where is the moral outrage that Facebook and other social media giants allow bullying and hateful posts that have led to the deaths of children from suicide? Or where racist, sexist, or homophobic social media posts have led to the deaths of people because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg that is quickly melting away American society and world stability.
Where are our elected officials? Who is protecting the interests of us as American citizens as well as our Democratic institutions? What will it take for anyone in a position of power who has the resolve to do something about it to take the threat posed by social media seriously?
While social media continues to wreak havoc on society and, with no hyperbole attached, cause death and destruction throughout the world, we all continue to feed the beast. We feed the beast by posting and by numbingly scrolling through our social media feeds. Businesses of all sizes feed the beast by spending their advertising dollars on marketing themselves on social media channels and by employing legions of social media employees dedicated to increasing social media presence. All that and more is strengthening the power of social media companies and enabling them to become more and more invincible.
All of this begs the question: how many more lives is your Facebook feed worth?