What online integrity will look like in 2022

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While the internet has opened up a multitude of new opportunities, it is undeniable that many have been able to use it to cause significant damage. For example, the latest FBI Internet Crime Report found 791,790 reported Internet crime complaints in 2020, a substantial increase from 2019 numbers. Likewise, the FTC received 4.8 million complaints for fraud or identity theft in 2020. But, of course, a lot of online crimes go unreported.

Crime, whether it is fraud or child predators, is not the only problem the Internet faces. The spread of disinformation, hate speech and extremism are also real threats.

Not surprisingly, governments, tech companies and others are taking increased steps to keep the Internet safe for all users. Their response to these ongoing challenges will undoubtedly shape the future of online integrity in 2022 and years to come.

The current challenges of the online world

When most people think of online integrity issues, they focus on the aforementioned issues such as fraud and identity theft. It is certainly no small task. From fake social media accounts used to steal information to scam emails and malware, there are plenty of tools bad actors use to steal private information.

However, harmful content has become even more prevalent in recent years. In the United States, this is most easily seen in the misinformation being disseminated regarding the 2020 election and the Covid pandemic.

As a CBS report details, even areas as seemingly benign as the wellness community (which includes yoga instructors and other wellness practitioners) have seen their social media feeds inundated with conspiracy theories. designed to sow distrust. Even after QAnon’s conspiracy theories have been repeatedly debunked, this pernicious source of disinformation continues to make its influence felt in conversations about voter fraud.

As problematic as disinformation can be when shared by a friend or family member, loopholes or lapses in the platform’s policies have resulted in even bigger problems globally.

After the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, the terrorist organization used social media to strengthen its grip, in large part because the Taliban were smart enough to make sure their uploaded content didn’t violate platform rules. .

The re-emergence of the Taliban has been further complicated by the fact that the United States does not officially designate the group as a terrorist organization, even though the UN Security Council does.

In India, anti-Muslim allegations known as “Jihad conspiracies” have been able to spread disinformation and sow discord in local communities in large part because of Facebook’s failure to regulate such content.

For platform owners and government officials, finding appropriate measures to verify the facts and remove such harmful content has become increasingly complicated, especially when it comes to free speech arguments. The global and international reach of online platforms makes these efforts even more difficult.

Related: 3 reasons why we fall for conspiracy theories

What are we doing to improve online integrity?

Most efforts to improve online integrity ultimately have to come from the platform owners themselves. In an ongoing effort to tackle misinformation regarding the pandemic, vaccines, and other related topics, social media platforms have continually updated their policies regarding content that is or is not acceptable. Some platforms use specific wording for issues like election misinformation, while others prefer broader wording.

As a white paper from ActiveFence, a service designed to proactively detect harmful content and counter bad actors, explains, “As we’ve learned, content policies must first and foremost protect the safety of users of the Internet. platform. Policy makers need to be aware of all relevant regulations and laws to ensure that policies comply with the law. Policies should be rigorous and detailed, but they should also be non-exhaustive. The challenge facing policy makers is to put in place a content rating system that protects the spirit of the formulation and can respond to new and evolving threats. Additionally, businesses need to understand their place in a dynamic digital environment, both as it is today and as it will be in the future. “

In particular, these efforts must take into account domestic and foreign policies and trends as they seek to reduce the influence of bad actors.

The government is also stepping up efforts to mitigate the potential damage caused by the internet, especially with regard to children. For example, recent congressional hearings have highlighted the responsibility of platforms such as YouTube and Snapchat to protect vulnerable youth and adolescents on social media. Concerns about data-driven advertising and the potential damage to mental health played a big role in driving these discussions.

While no firm action has yet been taken, there appears to be a growing consensus between the two parties on the need for further regulation of social media. Bills have already been introduced to make these platforms more transparent, and it is likely that this government pressure (both inside and outside the United States) is expected to increase in 2022.

Related: Preventing the spread of conspiracy theories in times of crisis requires effective leadership

Creating a safer online future

The challenges of maintaining integrity online are immense.

Ultimately, keeping the internet safe will require a concerted effort on the part of technology platforms, government agencies, brands, and NGOs to minimize the potential damage that malicious individuals can cause.

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