Importance of social networks for modern youth discussed at Eastern Economic Forum

Importance of social networks for modern youth discussed at Eastern Economic Forum

A session named “We Are Hooked: Facing the facts about Social Media” was held at Youth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). The participants discussed the importance of social networks as news distributors in society and the possible dangers that digital platforms pose, as well as the need to regulate them.

Importance of social networks for modern youth discussed at Eastern Economic Forum

Project manager of ANO “Dialog” Timofey Vi said that in the “post-truth era”, it is not so important what actually happened, but it is important what was written about it on social networks and messengers.

“People can choose any source of information according to their exact interests, surrounding themselves only with the point of view that is close to them. Alternative opinions cease to be taken into account. And here another problem appears: the algorithms of online platforms. They show what you like, those posts that catch your attention longer than usual. And very soon people find themselves, each in his or her own way, in an individual information bubble, where they don’t see anything beyond it”, he noted. According to the expert, modern mechanisms have become fertile ground for the dissemination of inaccurate information on the Web. This was especially noticeable during the coronavirus pandemic, when fakes appeared that began to threaten the life and health of people.

“Online platforms are certainly responsible for the content that is on their platforms. We continue to meet the phenomenon of such legal nihilism that “it's not us, it's the users who created this content, we're just a platform”. We can say that YouTube is not doing well enough to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate information. Certainly not like Twitter, because [this] IT giant did not delete anything at all,” concluded Vi, stressing that this is not about censorship, but about user safety. He also called bloggers to account when spreading certain messages.

Youth digital ombudsman Dmitry Gulyaev agreed that the issues of responsibility of users and the Internet sites themselves, as well as the regulation of their algorithms, are very acute. He also noted that the young audience of social networks is most susceptible to the influence of destructive content.

“70 percent of young people face propaganda of extremist-terrorist ideology online, about 60 percent receive information about methods of suicide, more than 50 percent watch content with cruelty and pornography, 70 percent are faced with propaganda of self-harm. These destructive phenomena pose a threat to information and worldview security for the emerging personality, whose critical thinking is not fully formed,” he said, noting the need to increase digital literacy among young people.

This position was supported by Yulia Mikhaleva, deputy head of the Russian Quality System (Roskachestvo). “There is such an expression ‘The best enemy is an obvious enemy’. When we understand what the danger is, we understand what step we need to take to minimize it,” she concluded. According to Mikhaleva, the age of people who are at the highest risk of fraud is 18-22 years. At the same time, the share of social engineering used by fraudsters in social networks has increased to 80 percent.

Social networks have revolutionized communication, experts said. For many people, they have become an integral part of life. According to a VTsIOM survey, the main sources of information for Russians today are television, the Internet (news, analytical and official sites) and social networks, blogs. Moreover, among young people (18-24 years old) in the first place are the facts and opinions that they got from bloggers.

According to experts, bloggers, who have millions of audiences, absolutely comparable to classical media, and have a strong influence on the users’ big picture. Bloggers are a part or a wall of the very information bubble that people are building around themselves. It is important for people to understand that not everything they see on the Internet is true, that information needs to be checked at minimum and every single post not to be trusted.

The mechanism of work of recommendation algorithms today is opaque and non-public. IT giants have repeatedly stated that they pay great attention to the moderation process and are constantly improving the existing algorithms. However, online platforms remove content that does not contain prohibited information, and at the same time truly destructive content is being ignored. So, technology corporations act solely out of their own interests and their own benefit, without worrying about the safety of the users themselves.

In Russia, since February 1, 2021, a self-regulation law has been in effect, obliging social networks to block and delete information containing child pornography, methods of making drugs, calls for riots and extremism, as well as those that insult human dignity and humiliate the state. However, IT giants like Facebook and Google, do not seek to comply with the requirements of the Russian authorities. It is necessary to make sure that absolutely all participants in the digital market comply with the law.

The task of the state is to develop universal transparent rules for controlling posted content by Internet resources. It also develops uniform rules and standards for self-examination of posted materials, such as a mechanism for justified complaints and identification of violations by users and administrators themselves, with a transparent reporting procedure for eliminating these violations, the participants of the discussion concluded. 

Other news