By: Brian Saenz, J.D. Candidate, May 2018, St. Thomas University School of Law.

We all know the feeling. Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Google Plus. Just kidding about Google Plus, I don’t know anyone who actually uses that. Anyway, we all know the feeling when scrolling through social media and we see a post or video on our timeline of some incident. Whether it is a freak-out in a fast food joint, a charged rant by some individual, or a police interaction, they all lead to the same thing. The comments. The comment streams on these platforms are some of the most hate filled sections of the Internet. Although, I can sometimes appreciate the serious comment that ends in “but please don’t let this distract you from the fact that in 1998, the Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell in A Cell, and plummeted 16 feet through an announcers table.” That one gets me every time, and if you don’t know it you don’t Internet enough. Nonetheless, it is few and far in between that the comments are funny or good spirited. Usually, posts and videos, including those based on neutral topics, find themselves the home for verbally abusive Internet trolls. These trolls hide behind their screens and pick fights with strangers often times telling bringing race into it or telling someone to commit suicide (these are just the basics, sometimes it gets much worse going as far as profile stalking to bring family and children into it). I can even give you a personal example; I once commented on a post in an event page that I was able to get tickets to the event and a complete stranger messaged me privately that he was going to be waiting for me with his friends to beat me up and take my tickets. I had never seen the guy in my life and thankfully I went to the event without incident, but it still took me by surprise that a stranger would waste the time to threaten another stranger. But hey, that’s the Internet these days. All of this leads me to a bigger point, this is becoming a huge problem and it’s not just the average social media user who is noticing.

Recently, Unilever (the world’s second largest advertiser) warned Facebook and Google, which includes YouTube, that it is considering pulling it’s advertising from the social media giants because of the problem I mentioned above. Unilever asserts that there is almost no protection for children from plethora of objectionable content on social media and that this content breaks down social trust, harms users, and even undermines democracies. Harsh but true words from a consumer goods company that spends $9.8 Billion a year on marketing. Unilever is not alone in this fight, last year Procter and Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, issued a similar warning to social media platforms. Both of these advertising giants feel as though there is not enough protection for children from all of the objectionable content, especially on YouTube. Recently, YouTube has faced backlash for allowing and streaming “children’s videos” that contain subliminal messages embedded with explicit adult content as well as the pedophilic comments left on those videos. YouTube has promised to change their algorithm and have humans review a majority of their video content in response to the pressure and criticism they have received. YouTube’s promise did not stop companies like HP, Mars Candy, and Diageo from pulling their ads from YouTube. No respectable company wants its ads next to objectionable content, especially not content that exploits children. It is no surprise that these advertising giants are taking a stand against unregulated social media platforms.

Overall, it is evident that these social media giants must change their filters, implement more safe guards, and protect children from things they should not see. It will not be an easy fix due to the sheer volume of content and posts on the Internet, but these billion dollar social media platforms should be able to manage investing some time and money into making their space safer for children and adult users alike. Putting a stop to fake news, divisive content, and explicit content for children will help ease the tense social climate on social media.