Security of social networking sites


Al-Watan newspaper

SEVERAL recent reports have highlighted the Facebook scandal that revealed the selling of secret information of its more than 50 million users to the London-based Cambridge Analytica company, which conducted a psychological analysis of Facebook users. The company wanted to make use of that information improperly for other purposes, breaching the privacy of Facebook users.

Following the scandal, Facebook’s founder and chairman, Mark Zuckerberg, came out on his page on the social media giant expressing sincere apology for the leakage of information and vowed that a series of measures would be taken to ensure privacy of Facebook users and strengthen their confidence in the global networking site.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page. This scandal reflects the power of social media networks in determining the future of nations and communities in the world and its ability to bring about political, economic and social changes.

Let’s take, for example, the political impact of the social networking platforms. This role has raised suspicions about the outcome of US presidential elections in 2016. During the fierce election battle, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter systematically aired information to tarnish the image of political rivals.

The social media networks can influence election results anywhere in the world by publishing outrageous stories, reports and conspiracy theories. It was strange that there was incessant flow of such fake data and information even after the US election, although its intensity reduced in the end of 2017. This situation, of course, created suspicion about role of foreign agencies to influence US voters.

The social media published false news and exchanged fabricated reports and stories on a larger scale, especially just before the date of US election. Preliminary investigations have revealed Russia’s explicit intervention as it controlled major news organizations such as Russia Today and Sputnik as well as Wikileaks.

Such fake and biased data flow aimed at influencing voters was also noticed during French elections as well as before and after the Brexit vote and during German federal polls. These incidents prove that people can be easily manipulated by knowing their personal tastes and tendencies as most individuals do not intend to achieve high public interests. This is a dangerous indication and reflects the depth of global communities’ intellectual and cultural problems.

There have been growing international calls for the verification of published content on events that take place in different countries and communities. It has been overshadowed by the problem of fake news and reports and wrong information that are disseminated at times of crucial political and economic events around the world.

This gives a clear indication that there are organizations at the level of countries that stand behind these incidents. Giant companies, which are interested only in making money, are also involved as they are not bothered about the consequences of their actions in those communities and this is a clear indicator of moral degradation.

The social networks such as Facebook have not yet discovered any solutions to stop fake content on their sites, although they play a big role in spreading wrong information and creating chaos. They should have developed innovative technical solutions for the purpose. The leakage of personal data makes us wonder about the extent of reliability and security of social media platforms.

It is true that social networking sites do not create content, but they provide required platforms to spread information. These sites have been instrumental in displaying what is happening in the streets. I think those who are managing these sites should use their skills and imaginations to understand the mentality of individuals and groups who try to manipulate social media platforms to realize their vested interests and take control of the world.

Just as algorithms and modern technology were applied to develop the networking industry, advanced systems must be created to control the content industry to track down and remove bad information that is used to manipulate public opinion in order to prevent conflicts and reinforce world peace and stability.