Information spreads like wildfire thanks to the power of the Internet and social media.
“Where did you read that?”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Where did you see that?”
Geez mom, Facebook!
At the beginning of time, Facebooks’ sole purpose was to allow people to connect with others both domestically and internationally. You could share an article about “The Top 10 Coffee Cities in America” with your Aunt Barbara out in Seattle, or talk to your best friend studying abroad about how “Friends” was brought back to Netflix. We rely on Facebook to provide us with the most accurate and up to date information so we can share it with 500 of our closests friends, along with billions of people around the world. As we encounter this information, we exercise our right to Freedom of Speech by responding to certain matters however we please.
This can be quite problematic for millennials’ since their thoughts, feelings, interests and beliefs are shaped by the information they receive. When the fine line between glorifying and promoting awareness is crossed, the reaction it sparks can be quite detrimental. Facebook encourages people to exercise their right to Free Speech, but only in a way that doesn’t exploit a person’s race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin or serious disability or diseases; meaning you can speak as freely as you want as long as it doesn’t shame, degrade, harass or bully the other users. However, when it comes to freedom of speech as it relates to animal cruelty, a very fine line is drawn. Animal cruelty laws are solely determined by each individual state within the US, so you might bear witness to an illegal act on Facebook that’s actually completely legal in another state. Imagine sipping your morning coffee and watching a legal video of an animal slowly getting beaten to death. Immediate spit take.
Facebook follows a set of standards when determining whether a post should be removed or an account disabled. If a post violates one of its standards, then it’s removed immediately. However, if a post doesn’t perfectly align up with the exact words within a specific policy, then Facebook isn’t obligated to take it down. Back in 2015, a “Valentine’s Day Cat Punching Event” was scheduled to take place, and its sole purpose was to provide a platform for people to post videos and photos of them punching or abusing cats. Facebook was reluctant to remove the group because it didn’t technically violate any of its codes. Luckily, with the help of 30,000 signatures, Facebook had no choice but to remove the group due to the amount of unwanted attention it received.
Mark Zuckerberg claimed to have created Facebook because he felt it would “help people understand what was going on in their world a little better,” but what do videos and photos of animal abuse help us to understand? What message are we trying to send the world? To future generations? Almost 2 billion people actively use Facebook on a daily basis, which means that almost 2 billion people have the opportunity to watch a cat get tossed around like a baseball. It’s cruel, it’s heartbreaking, and we tend to forget that they too feel pain! However, does posting videos and photos of animal cruelty protect society by raising awareness about the matter? If so, would it be detrimental to ban all videos of animal abuse, because in doing so videos that promote awareness with the objective of preventing abuse will be banned as well. Or, does it promote cruel and vicious behavior amongst members of society?
If one voice has the power to draw in 4 billion eyes, then are we truly doing the world a favor by forcing Facebook to remove every heartbreaking post about animals, or are we simply depriving the world from a much needed wakeup call that could potentially stop animal abuse? No animal deserves to be mistreated, but every animal deserves the right to have their story told. Those animal abuse commercials, articles, photos and videos we try so desperately to avoid have allowed organizations like ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to save the lives of thousands of animals.
Facebook sets the stage for the world to see and gives you the mic to let your voice be heard. A fine line between glorifying and promoting awareness will always exist on the internet, but what would life be like without having Aunt Barbara as an outlet to share our information? At what point is this not jeopardizing to animals and people?
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