You’re Banned: What Criteria Should Determine a Cyber Threat on Social Media

Nadia Munno | December 7, 2016

The boundary of what is considered acceptable and what is not acceptable within the realm of social media tends to be becoming finer every day.  Between vulgar messages and images, to hate speech and harassment, what actually is placed in these categories seems to depend upon the platform being used.  Different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other such sites can have different policies regarding what is a violation of terms.

The Stances of Twitter and Facebook

A prime example of this being played out currently is the posts and statuses of President Elect Donald Trump.  There have been considerable reports flooding in to both Twitter and Facebook of his posts and statuses being labeled as hate speech or harassment.  Now, here is where things get interesting.  Much of the debate in regard to this issue has come down to the discretion and interpretation of the platform.  Twitter has taken a much more battle hardened stance with their past history and experiences with trolls, and stating a violation of terms is a violation of terms regardless of whose account it is.  Whereas Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have placed their stance in the realm of making exceptions based on taking context into consideration.

There was a point in which Zuckerberg directly intervened to stop some of Mr. Trump’s posts from being removed.  To which, some of the Facebook employees involved in reviewing content complained about within the company lines and to the CEO himself, as well as some employees even threatening to quit.  Zuckerberg defended the move under the heading of providing newsworthy content, and allowing political discourse to take its course.  In an interview with Techonomy, he states “But at the point where, you know the person who’s elected President of the United States is expressing that opinion and has 60 million people who are followers, then the question is: I think that is mainstream political discourse that I think we need to be pretty careful about saying that that’s not a reasonable thing.”

Discernment of a Violation

There are several criteria that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to evaluating content in regard to terms of use and question of violation.  While Mr. Trump has stated what some consider to be questionable or insulting, the reality is that this was done in what was considered political discourse as Zuckerberg stated.  A large factor around the appeal of President Elect Trump’s campaign was that he spoke his mind.  He was blunt, straightforward, and said what he needed to say.  So when what were considered questionable topics by some were broached as part of Mr. Trump’s political stance, he was accused of hate speech or harassment.  But to be able to display viewpoints and messages over social media in relation to the presidential campaign is part of what election year has evolved into within our contemporary time.  Social media has become a relay point for the passing of information, news and viewpoints.  For Mr. Trump to display his viewpoints and stances across his social media is part of what the race has evolved to these days.  Spreading his stances and messages via social media to his supporters allows him to stay connected with them.

When the presidential campaigns of both candidates were in progress, tensions had gotten very high between both sides.  The posts and comments being massively displayed in regard to the race could tend to become very emotional.  While people can display viewpoints that others readily disagree with, the question of whether or not a post or message is a cyber threat is not simply black or white.  There needs to be consideration as far as to what is valued by the public, and the context of the message.  A flat out cyber threat can generally be recognized quite easily.  In the case of Mr. Trump’s posts and viewpoints, what he was stating and displaying was newsworthy as part of the race for president, as well as of value to his supporters.

Co-founder & President
Nadia is the President and co-founder of Massive Alliance. She is an international figure in reputation management and is best known for her rolodex of media influencers.