David and Goliath: A battle between social media giants and its users

I’d like you to think about some statistics, collected by DMR in 2015:

With number like these, it is clear Facebook is not just a fad. Facebook is evident in almost every country in the entire world. Its power exceeds that of just connecting people. “Social networks have become ubiquitous, necessary, and addictive. Social networking is no longer just a pastime, it’s a way of life” (Andrews, 2012).

Most people see terms and conditions as a small hurdle before reaching your destination. Most of us are unaware of what Facebook can actually do with the information it receives off its users. Of course we are all reassured by the fact that we can modify and change our privacy settings to our likings, but maybe its not other users we should be hiding from. Maybe the real problem is Facebook itself.


Essentially, people are handing over their rights of control to others the moment they sign up to Facebook. Most of us presume that Mark Zuckerberg has our best interest at heart but does he? Of course we would be naive to think the success of his company is not his foremost concern. It is reasonable that we may disagree with the control such companies have over our personal content, but do we act on this? We have the ability to opt out and delete our accounts. However, our reliability on social media and its dramatic influence in our lives, results in most of us not choosing this option.

Nevertheless, as more people become aware of Facebook capabilities, their priorities are realigning, placing privacy and control above social interaction. The idea that Facebook basically “owns” our online identities and they can do with them as they please is no longer deemed acceptable. Similarly, many countries are becoming aware of the power of Facebook and are seeing a need to monitor and create laws to control its power and protect its people.

Early this year, Facebook blocked Frenchman Frédéric Durand-Baissas’s account after he posted an 1866 painting by Gustave Courbet that hangs in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris. The image depicts female genitalia was deemed “too offensive” for Facebook. Durand-Baissas believed this action was a violation of his freedom of speech and thus filed a legal complaint against Facebook. Facebook however argued French justice was not competent to handle the case as the man had signed the social media group’s terms that stipulate only American courts can handle disputes, but the court found Facebook’s compulsory clause on jurisdiction, in which only a California court can handle disputes, to be “abusive” (Samuel, 2015). Durand-Baissas’ lawyer Mr Cottineau said, “Given the Paris High Court’s aura, this decision will set a legal precedent for other social media networks and other giants of the net that use the location of their headquarters, mainly in the United States, to try and escape French law.” 

Two hauliers prepare to install the Gustave Courbet's canvas 'L'origine du monde' (The origin of the world) at the Courbet museum (AFP)

Two hauliers prepare to install the Gustave Courbet’s canvas ‘L’origine du monde’ (The origin of the world) at the Courbet museum (AFP)

It is examples like the above that place a precedent for issues regarding privacy and our rights on the Internet. While we may place the social media platform on a pedestal, it is clear countries are no longer turning their heads away from its issues and are cracking down on these social giants.

References

Andrews, Lori 2012, ‘Facebook nation’, I know who you are and I saw what you did: social networks and the death of privacy, 1st Free Press hardcover ed., Free Press, New York, pp. 1-15

Samual, H 2015, ‘Facebook can be sued if it tries to censor content, says French court’, The Telegraph, 5 March, viewed 17 April 2015, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11453537/Facebook-can-be-sued-if-it-tries-to-censor-content-says-French-court.html&gt;.

Smith, C 2015, By the Numbers: 200+ Amazing Facebook User Statistics (February 2015), DMR, viewed 17 April 2015, <http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-17-amazing-facebook-stats/10/&gt;.

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