Social Media, the Law and Social Justice.

AuthorCooper, John

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We've seen social media as a tool for social justice but its relationship with the law is challenging.

Given the rapid growth of our interconnected world, few people would deny the role that social media plays--a repository of information, a driver of ideas and innovation, and increasingly a tool of social justice.

Devika Khandelwal wrote in Modern Diplomacy in 2019:

[I]n today's global world where many countries witness gross violation of human rights and political and social chaos, different online platforms have become a safe place to share their ordeal and demand justice... Internet provides us with platforms where we can fight for our rights and against injustice, support people from all across the world in gaining justice, and help people become better informed citizens of the world. The Rise of Social Media

Social media is enjoying phenomenal growth. It is estimated Facebook has 2.7 billion users, Instagram 1 billion, WhatsApp 500 million, Twitter 330 million and LinkedIn 310 million. Even Myspace, thought to be dying as a platform, still has almost 15 million monthly users. All told, social media holds the world together.

Anderson et al wrote Activism in the Social Media Age about the fifth anniversary of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. They noted that a Pew Research Center analysis of public tweets found the hashtag was used 17,200 times a day in the five-year period from 2013 to 2018, or approximately 31 million times. An updated story in 2020 found that it was used 47.5 million times--or 3.7 million times a day--during the two-week period of May 26 to June 7, 2020. May 25, 2020 was the pivotal day when a white police officer killed African American George Floyd. This event sparked riots, sit-ins, discussion and promises of widespread social change in the treatment of People of Colour by police services. In their research, Anderson et al found that up to half of Black and Latinx social media users saw social media as crucial for political engagement, compared to a third of white social media users.

Lisa Silver is an associate professor at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Law and an expert on social media law. In a telephone interview, she said it's vital to recognize social media as "an important form of community. It can give causes space for a voice." A downside is the use of social media to spread hate. Silver cites a recent poll conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies that "found that...

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