The need to communicate and socialize is a strictly human one and has always defined human culture at a fundamental level. With the introduction of social media into modern life, the rate, speed and extent of such communications and interactions have increased dramatically, adding a cyber-element of cohesion and at times, confusion, into real human life. The cyber space also became a huge marketplace for individuals and businesses, offering possibilities to find or post job openings, create online marketplaces and sell goods, start Facebook or Linkedin business pages promoting companies, products and services or simply buy and sell Instagram accounts as well as followers. As a result, the developments observed in social media have begun to have almost a direct impact on real human life, turning social media use into an addiction for those who wish to stay on top of their game and profit.
Instagram’s explosion into the world of social media began in 2010 with the platform’s launch and intensified when Facebook’s acquired the company in 2012 with new personnel, capital and technologies made available for the company’s growth. The latest addition to Instagram’s power in social media is Instagram Checkout, an add-on that will enable users to shop products directly on Instagram without having to visit external sites. Currently 20 beauty and fashion brands are enlisted within the system’s directory with more companies to come, “ranging from Zara and H&M on the more affordable end, to Balmain and Dior on the higher end.” Currently, Instagram users spend approximately 53 minutes a day on the platform, giving influencers extreme power over their attention spans, while Instagram has already begun technological investments to offer the best services for the companies to be listed on its marketplace. The idea is to create an efficient global marketplace and charge member companies a certain selling fee to finance Instagram’s associated operations and earn the company extra income. Estimates show that a company advertisement on Instagram stream will bring as much as $2 billion a year so it is expected that companies will literally be lining up to be featured in the marketplace, regardless of the amount of the service fee.
Naturally, social media requires regulation and legal control just like any other business sector which prompted the Australian parliament to pass a new legislation to “criminalize Internet platforms for failing to remove violent videos and audio” following the recent terrorist attack carried out on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand by an Australian gunman. The new legislation puts significant pressure on social media executives as well as content and hosting providers with possible punishments of jail time up to three years for individuals and 10% annual revenue fines for companies, in the case that they fail to remove violent content from their platforms uppon legal request. The mentioned terrorist’s live footage of the terror attacks in New Zealand remained available on Facebook close to an hour from the beginning of the live broadcast, spreading around social media rapidly and generating 1.5 million copies over the next 24 hours, all of which were deleted or blocked by Facebook within 24 hours. The Australian politicians are concerned about the lack of responsible involvement on part of online content streaming sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and believe that such a legal obligation will motivate these companies to be more precise and careful about such incidents and help law enforcement with possible interventions.
Russia is one of the strictest countries with respect to expression of political opinions and the Kremlin has a rather shady record of dealing with dissidents, making it no wonder that the Russian government is more than ready to take the necessary measures to limit political expression in the cyber domain as well. A recently approved law is a great example of such an inclination with “stipulates fines of up to 100,000 roubles (£1,155) for ‘indecent’ online posts that demonstrate a ‘blatant disrespect for society, the country, Russia’s official state symbols, the constitution, or the authorities’.” The definition and scope of ‘blatant disrespect’ is rather ambiguous and opponents of the law fear that online comments can be manipulated or their meanings can be misinterpreted purposefully to justify persecutions while the proponents of it are praising the courage of the Putin administration to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable criticism. Heavy speculation rotates within Kremlin circles that Vladimir Putin is an extremely sensitive person to perceived insults, reminding the public of how he directly targeted a parody TV show called ‘Kukly’ (Puppets) airing on NTV because in one episode he was depicted as an evil gnome, cursing at other characters. As a result, the TV station was taken over by the Russian state and all the Putin related remarks were removed from future broadcasts.