As the World Economic Forum in Davos draws to a close, and illustrious political and business power brokers leave the snowy town, one wonders where this leaves the rest of us. Although some NGOs also made representations, only a handful of small anti-globalisation protests took place. Have people suddenly got the answer to the question why is socialism bad and decided to stay away?
In recent times, socialism has become a dirty word, one associated with an unruly far left. Is this tarnish justified? Let’s look at the dictionary definitions of socialism and pitch it against the capitalism-definition.
Reading this definition, one wonders, what’s wrong with socialism? What’s wrong with equality? What’s wrong with sharing equally in a country’s money? Staunch capitalists will cite examples of countless failed socialist regimes and emphasize that socialism simply doesn’t work.
The current upheaval in Venezuela is a prime example of what divides the right and the left. While the US supports and recognizes the opposition leader and calls Maduro out as a undemocratic socialist leader, Maduro supports blame economic sanctions for the dire state of the Venezuelan economy.
How Did Socialism Get Such a Bad Name?
Capitalists don’t like the restrictions socialism places on economies. Instead, they propagate free market rules designed for growth and economic freedom. Needless to say, they also like low tax rates.
Perhaps one ought to take a brief look back at the history of socialism to understand how this political philosophy came about in the first instance. What’s more, it’s important to understand that socialism has many different applications.
The examples in the video illustrate the vast differences in the application of the socialist model. It appears that the nations combining capitalism and socialism like Denmark and Sweden have been the most successful in promoting economic growth while also ensuring a decent degree of equality.
The USA and Europe illustrate the workings of capitalism, although some countries incorporate elements of socialism into their political system. Countries like Sweden have excellent public services to cater to those who may not be able to afford private healthcare or education.
The 2008 Financial Crisis – Capitalism Goes Socialist
After the 2008 global recession, countless financial institutions required state financial support in what appears to be a contradiction in terms.
If you wear your socialist hat for a moment, you’d have to ask yourself how financial institutions arrived at asking for and taking government bailouts. While sticking to strictly capitalist principles when profitable, the banks suddenly put on a socialist hat and gladly took the cash.
Many governments feared the mayhem that may have been associated with the collapse of the banking sector and jumped in to help without delay. Who footed the bill? The taxpayer, stupid!
The Basic Principles of Socialism v Capitalism in Brief
So, how do the two systems impact on the everyday workings of a society?
government or Co-ops
individuals or Businesses
determined by people or companies
higher taxes for public services
lower taxes to stimulate economic growth
government ensures greater equality
less competition, higher prices
more competition, lower prices
substantial government investment
limited government spending
slower economic growth
equality and better public services
stronger economic growth
This is a simplistic view of capitalism and socialism. The real impact also depends on world economic factors, political stability, and international relations. Moreover, most economies combine the two political philosophies, each creating and implementing its own socialism&capitalism cocktail.
Socialism – Good or Bad?
In theory, socialist principles are worthwhile. Unfortunately, its pure application is nigh unachievable.
Capitalism – Good or Bad?
One only needs to bring to mind the ever-widening wealth gap to grasp the very serious and catastrophic downsides of pure capitalism. Only one year ago, the Guardian reported that 42 individuals held the same amount of wealth as 3.7 billion of the world’s poorest people.
Socialism v Capitalism
Socialism and capitalism are wide open to abuse. In its principles, socialism promotes equality and fairness – something that no one can argue with.
Smartly combining capitalism and socialism appears to be the best way to provide citizens with a decent standard of living while promoting economic growth.
In the wake of sometimes violent protests and clashes with police during the yellow vest demonstrations in Paris and beyond, French women have created a separate movement. The women yellow vests or #femmes #giletsjaunes are pursuing the same issues but distancing themselves from the use of violence that has cast shadows over the #giletsjaunes movement.
Women Yellow Vests
Apart from taking to the Streets of Paris, Toulouse, Caen, Lyon, and beyond, French women have come together on social media to campaign for a variety of issues. What is different about the #femmes #giletsjaunes is that the movement is strictly non-violent. The power of the women’s conviction is impressive.
In the run-up to the first march, the women didn’t fear getting caught up in riots and clashes with the police. To date, the #femmes #giletsjaunes demonstrations took place without any major incidents.
The issues at the heart of this movement are the same: lower taxes and the resignation of the government. In a show of strength and determination, the protestors wanted to emphasize the weight of their conviction and object to the French government’s denunciation of the #giletsjaunes protestors as troublemakers. Holding up placards stating “Je suis ta mère”, “Je suis ta collègue”, “Je suis ta sœur” the #femmes #giletsjaunes sought to steer clear off any violent confrontations while also re-emphasizing the original #giletsjaunes demands.
On Twitter, LaPlumeLibre explained:
How Did the Women Yellow Vest Protest Come About?
According to a Le Média report, the Paris gathering had been organised through the #femmes #giletsjaunes Facebook page with the venue and time only publicised one hour prior to assembly. The objective was simple: to freely express their demands while avoiding violent clashes at all cost.
At the Place de la Bastille, women of all ages, some with their children, sang the Marseillaise before marching toward la Place de la Republique. A group of men formed a security line in support. One woman explained her attendance to a reporter:
“We are no longer free, there’s no freedom left.”
Another woman described how police and security forces appeared to want to hit the #giletsjaunes. However, she emphasized that the #femmes #giletsjaunes were not afraid but hoped no violence would taint their peaceful protest.
At lunchtime, police officers arrived to prevent the women from making their way through Paris. Having chosen to form the frontline of the demonstration to dissuade police from the use of violence, a handful of women suffered the ill-effects of teargas. One woman picked up a batton lost in battle by a security service officer but decided to return it to him. She even asked if she had accidentally hurt him when handing it back.
Despite some tensions caused by a heavy police presence, the atmosphere throughout the march was one of strength and calm. The women sang songs, among them children and women with disabilities. Drivers trying to make their way through the protests, blew their horns in support.
Speaking to a reporter from Le Média, one woman wearing a yellow hard hat and holding a yellow balloon out of the window of her car explained her reason for supporting the #femmes #giletsjaunes.
(We would like) ”Macron to do whatever is necessary to give less money to those who don’t need it and give it back to the people with middle incomes who want to spend it themselves.”
The women’s claim for lower taxes is entirely justified as they make up more than half of the French workforce. Thus, they bear the brunt of the injustice.
Attending the women yellow vests march, one woman walking alongside her grandparents explained how the movement spans across age, religion, and social background.
The middle income earners have been struggling to make ends meet for quite some time now. Exempt from receiving any state aid, they carry a heavy tax burden while also having to spend on basics like rent, utilities, healthcare, food, and education. Even couples and families with two incomes are struggling to put a roof over their head.
In that sense, the fuel tax that sparked the creation of the #giletsjaunes movement was the straw that broke the camels back.
Not Just Yellow Vests – Liberty Caps Too
Apart from yellow vests, some women also wore a bonnet Phrygian, a liberty cap, associated with the French revolution and a well-known symbol of the French resistance. The cap originates in Roman times when it became associated with the liberation of slaves.
Back in 1798, it was French women who marched, holding up the Cahiers de doléances (notebook of grievances). For the first time, French people felt they had a voice. Historians today believe that the Cahiers played a significant role in the lead up to the French revolution.
This revolutionary spirit of French women has now re-manifested in the #femmes #giletsjaunes movement.
Monsieur le Président take note, the women yellow vests – #femmes #giletsjaunes – are here to stay and may spark another groundbreaking revolution.
The Yellow Vest Movement Is Spreading
Not just French people have worn #giletsjaunes. Anti-austerity and anti-inequality protestors have adopted the yellow vests as a symbol, demanding lower taxes for the working poor and a narrowing of the stark wealth gap.
Yellow vest protests have taken place across Europe and in Canada.
The women yellow vest have inspired a clearer and non-violent approach, thus adding conviction and strength. No doubt, the anti-austerity movement will take courage and find fresh resolve in the fight for equality.
Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of The Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky was first published in 1988 and remains one of the most significant books on the collaboration between politics and the media. Although today’s media landscape boasts a whole host of additional platforms, the principles remain the same. This is a Manufacturing Consent Summary.
Despite the commonly-held perception of journalistic independence, freedom of the press, and journalistic integrity, Herman and Chomsky shed light on the collaboration between the corporate media and governments. Stories are selected to manufacture consent, produce advertising revenue, drive political agendas, and enrich powerful media corporations.
30-Year Publication Anniversary
To mark the 30th anniversary of its publication, Aljazeera recently broadcast a documentary about this must-read book. To understand the basic concept and learn about the principles at work, take a look at this short Manufacturing Consent summary.
But the Aljazeera documentary doesn’t simply celebrate the brilliance of this book. Instead, its makers interviewed three renowned “non-mainstream” journalists to discuss its value, longevity, and premise.
One of them, Amira Haas, a journalist working in Gaza for the past 30 years, cast doubt on the public’s willingness to seek out information. Although the internet has made it possible for people in many countries to access facts, she believes that many people choose not to. In that sense, she considers Manufacturing Consent – although scathing – to deliver too optimistic a view.
During the documentary, Noam Chomsky himself stressed the new-found accessibility of information through the internet. For seekers of factual information, the internet has proven invaluable despite the emergence of fake news and ever-expanding media corporations.
From Manufacturing Consent to Manufacturing Dissent
Looking at today’s world politics and media, one would have to wonder whether today’s powers are manufacturing dissent instead. The rise of right-wing politics and the obvious polarisation between opposing factions suggests as much. Is today’s aim to divide and conquer, to drive a sharper wedge between the poor and the poor, so that cannot unite and rise up against greedy cash powers?
In the wake of recent ally-airstrikes against Syria and the prospect of a new cold war, we look at the role the arms industries play in a variety of economies across the globe. Everyone knows, war is big business. So, who profits from war?
Where are the most successful arms manufacturers based? Whom do they supply their arms to? Can governments turn a blind eye when it comes to the supply of arms to oppressive regimes?
Have affluent countries contributed to an increase in wars because of their arms supplies? Is the arms industry so important and economically essential that war becomes a plus for the economies in their country of origin? Is it in the interest of some governments to covertly promote war for profit?
How do western-manufactured arms end up in the hands of terrorists? Is there a duty on the general public to highlight these issues and demand change? Do we need to regulate the arms industry more stringently to prevent unnecessary wars?
In this article, we aim to shed some light on these issues and answer the question, who profits from war. This is a contentious issue that requires far more debate than it has seen up until now.
Arms manufacturers have seen a significant rise in demand in recent years
New figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in February 2017, show that the global arms industry has experienced significant growth, most notably, since 2003. An increased demand from Asia and the Middle East has allowed weapons manufacturers to grow their businesses significantly.
The increase shown on the above chart represents an 8.4 percent growth between 2007 and 2011 and between 2012 and 2016. The five-year period from 2012 to 2016 saw the biggest increase in weapons transfer in a five-year period since the end of the Cold War. This surge is down to an increase in demand from Asia and the Middle East.
What economies rely on the arms industry?
According to Sipri, 74 per cent of the total arms volume originates in the United States, China, France, Germany, and Russia, but a number of other countries also boast billion-dollar arms industries.
What nations buy the arms?
Asian countries and states in the Middle East are the biggest arms importers. India, in particular, has increased its arms import volume significantly in the past few years. In fact, between 2012 and 2016 India increased its imports by 43 per cent.
China has begun replacing imports with home-produced weapons. As a result, India now imports a far greater arms volume than China and Pakistan. During the same period, Vietnam also markedly boosted its arms imports. In 2017, Vietnam was the 10th biggest arms importer in the world.
Middle East states have also grown their weapons import volumes. Between 2007 and 2011 and 2012 and 2016 respectively, states in the region added 86 per cent to their previous arms import volumes. Imports to the Middle East now make up 29 per cent of the global volume.
Saudi Arabia also bolstered its imports during that period. In fact, it saw an increase of 212 per cent. Qatar boosted its arms imports, even more, adding 245 per cent to its previous arms imports volume. States in the Middle East have been sourcing most of their imports in Europe and in the US.
46 per cent of all arms imports to Africa were destined for Algeria during the same period.
Only Europe and the Americas saw a significant decrease in arms imports, so Sipri statistics show. However, imports to Mexico increased by 184 per cent.
Government revenue and the ethics of arms manufacturing and supply
The multi-billion global arms industry provides governments across the globe with multiple sources of income. For starters, national purses are filled with sales tax. In addition, arms producers provide plenty of employment, paying out significant amounts of money on income tax and secondary wage costs. Supporting industries such as shipping companies also benefit, adding further financial gains for governments. So, what are governments doing to regulate arms manufacturers and exports?
The UK example
Let’s take the UK. Here like in many arms-exporting countries, arms manufacturers and exporters require an operating license. However, it appears that the controls in place may not be adequate.
According to an article in the Independent published in 2015, the UK sold more than £5 billion of arms to countries on the UK government’s blacklist for human rights abuses. The parliamentary Committees on Arms Export Controls questioned whether government ministers were doing enough to prevent arms ending up in authoritarian regimes.
Two types of licenses are available. SIELs (Standard Individual Export Licences) and OIELs (Open Individual Export Licences). SIELs are specific to a limited shipment, whereas OIELS allow an unlimited supply to one destination in a set five-year period.
Holders of an OIELS do not have to disclose the ‘end recipient’ immediately. According to the same article in the Independent, an increase in the issuing of OIELS has been observed, leading to fears of a lack of transparency when it comes to arms exports and the end recipients in particular.
The UK government also has an embargo and restrictions in place on some countries including North Korea, Armenia, and on a significant number of other countries.
Still, the British arms industry was estimated to be contributing 0.27 per cent to the GDP in 2015, even though some experts have pointed out that the British taxpayer may, in fact, be subsidising the arms industry mainly by paying for relevant research and development projects, so the Guardian reports.
In recent months, one organisation continuously highlighting the issues and campaigning against the global arms trade, the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has been especially vocal in its opposition to the supply of weaponry to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabia question
Last year, the Guardian reported that during the first half of 2017, the UK sold £1.1 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the first half of the year alone. Saudi Arabia reportedly purchased ballistic shields, body armour, sniper rifles, aircraft components, air-to-air missiles, and anti-riot gear.
In March 2018, Theresa May and Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a partnership plan which has been condemned as a ‘national disgrace’ by many. Since Brexit, the UK government has been looking at new export expansion options and considers deals such as this as providing significant export opportunities post-Brexit. However, human rights activists have been outraged because of Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen.
According to Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s opinion piece published in the Guardian late last year, the UK arms export control regime outlines that the government must not licence arms to oppressive, human rights-violating regime. In addition, Russell-Moyle explained that the UN has said that the Arab nation is targeting Yemeni civilians.
According to the Yemen Data Project, thousands of raid have hit civilians sites. This has led many to believe that British-manufactured arms could be used to target schools, hotels, hospitals and many other non-military sites. This, of course, would be contrary to British law, the Guardian reports.
After the unveiling of the partnership deal, numerous MPs voiced their vehement opposition, including Labour MP Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary.
“Over 22 million Yemeni lives depend on permanent, full access for aid, food and fuel in Yemen. Instead, she (Theresa May) has won no concessions and simply handed on a plate to Saudi Arabia a new humanitarian partnership and an endorsement from DfID [the Department for International Development], the world’s best aid agency. It will whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war, and it is a national disgrace.”
Head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International UK, Allan Hogarth, also expressed his concerns:”It is not good enough for the UK to provide humanitarian aid on the one hand and supply the weapons that fuel a humanitarian crisis on the other.”
Since 2014, Yemen has been embroiled in civil war between government forces and Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia has been supporting the Yemeni government. The humanitarian disaster in Yemen continues.
How do terrorist organisations get arms?
Conflict Armament Research is an organisation who visits war zones to investigate where groups like IS get their weapons from.
So, there you have some answers to the question, who profits from war. The manufacture, sale, and supply of arms appears profitable indeed, however, not at an affordable humanitarian cost.
Frustrated at the lack of media coverage real social issues receive from the mainstream media, Senator Bernie Sanders now broadcasts on Bernie Sanders TV. With just over 100’000 subscribers the senator is a long way from reaching the lofty subscription numbers of the most famous YouTubers. However, his criticism of the media is somewhat justified. To someone who’s struggling to make ends meet or pay for medical expenses, lengthy discussions on Stormy Daniels must appear ridiculous.
During a recent Bernie Sanders TV debate, this and the way corporate media do news came up for discussion. Michael Moore joined Sanders along with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Darrick Hamilton for a debate entitled ‘Inequality America: A National Town Hall. The mainstream media was in for a serious bashing for its failure to highlight the everyday social issues facing the less well-off in the US.
Is the corporate media failing to raise the most important issues?
Sanders has long been a critic of corporate media, accusing them of ‘soap opera’ news reporting. To Sanders, the media’s failure to highlight that millions of people live in poverty in the US beggars belief. Blaming vested interest, Sanders considers the corporate media part of the establishment, hell-bent on serving the affluent in society.
This is not the first time, Sanders has drawn attention to conflict of interest in mainstream media. Over twenty years ago, he addressed the same issue in the House.
Sanders has also repeatedly highlighted the power of the media when it comes to shaping the electorate’s opinions. TV news companies and newspapers choose the headlines, and Sanders believes that they have a tendency to drive an agenda which serves their own goals rather than those of the American people.
When it comes to the treatment Sanders has received from mainstream media corporations, well, Sander’s supporters take a dim view. Many of them believe he didn’t receive a fair amount of coverage when pitched against Hillary Clinton during the Democrat’s 2016 candidate selection process.
What’s on Bernie Sanders TV?
Since the inception of Bernie Sander’s YouTube channel, the Vermont senator has uploaded over 1000 videos, highlighting social issues and informing viewers of important developments in US courts and political circles. In addition, Sanders posts videos outlining his views on America’s role on an international stage. Here’s an example of one of his videos.
The reaction to Bernie Sanders TV has been positive, with popular channels like The Young Turks applauding the senator’s work.
Inequality America: A National Town Hall
Over 1.7 million tuned in to watch the live stream broadcast last month. After publishing an open letter in the Guardian newspaper in January 2018, the senator sought to gather experts to discuss inequality in America, a topic which rarely, if ever, makes the headlines. The panel discussed stark poverty gap statistics, the role of corporate media, and corporate political donations. During the debate, videos of individuals living in poverty and speaking about their everyday lives were broadcast. Citing as unlimited political donations at one of the main ills, Sanders – who only relied on donations from individuals when running against Clinton – called for the immediate introduction of laws prohibiting or limiting corporate donations. This is because he believes that candidates who are supported by corporations are likely to serve their interests rather than those of ordinary citizens.
Tech companies are well aware of section 230, after all, it is the one piece of legislation underpinning the entire internet. As Facebook has come under scrutiny for its failure to protect user data, some politicians have been calling for widespread internet regulation. So what is section 230? In essence, it’s a section of US law that removes the responsibility for content away from internet platforms.
This means that platform providers cannot be sued for published content. Without section 230, companies like Facebook could be held liable for each publication on their platform. The importance of section 230 cannot be underestimated as it allows tech companies to operate freely and without fear.
Is section 230 at risk?
At the dawn of the internet in the 1990s, no one could have anticipated its far-reaching impact. Governments were eager to facilitate its growth and were happy to allow tech companies to operate freely. However, the internet has also been proven to provide many downsides. Recent data user scandals involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have once again highlighted the need for user protection. So, will legislators get rid of section 230 like many tech companies fear?
In the short-term, that is highly unlikely, although some exceptions to section 230 are due to be signed into law shortly. In March 2018, the Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 and this exception is now awaiting the president’s signature. Although this is only one restriction on section 230, many people fear that it may spell the end of an unregulated internet.
What’s more, if tech companies were to be considered as publishers, it would change the landscape of the space tech companies operate in completely. These companies would then have to operate like publishers and scrutinize each piece of content published on their platform. Any untrue of libellous content would then be open to lawsuits.
Tech companies and human rights activists fear that far-reaching internet regulation would curtail the freedom of speech. Governments and lawmakers would then control the information and its publication, thus potentially silencing dissenting voices.
As Mark Zuckerberg faces a grilling during congressional hearings, many people fear that user data protection is the least of his worries.
On Monday, Malaysia’s parliament introduced legislation to ban the publication of fake news. Lawbreakers could face a hefty fine of over £90’000 or a 6-year jail term. While this may seem like a courageous and progressive move, critics of this legislation fear that its introduction will lead to the silencing of dissenting voices in the country. So, is anti-fake news legislation a good thing or a bad thing?
Critics fear legislation may turn Malaysia into a dictatorship
Following a feverish debate, the legislation was passed by 123 votes to 64. The proposed punishment of a ten-year jail term was reduced to six years and the fine set at 500’000 ringgit. Opponents of the bill accused the government of introducing the laws to silence discussions surrounding a multi-billion dollar scandal involving Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak. Though the election is only to be held in August, Razak is expected to announce early elections within days.
The legislation covers all media in Malaysia as well as foreign media sources. As the legislation was rushed through parliament, critics also fear that it is designed to silence critics who’ve been vocal in their opposition to the newly-introduced election constituency boundaries. Voicing his opposition, lawmaker, Lim Guan Eng, said that existing laws provided sufficient protection and that “this will see one step forward to dictatorship, this is more than autocracy.”
However, the minister in charge of social media said that the platforms were unable to stop the publication of fake news, adding that the legislation would enable the courts to “decide what is fake news.”
The government accuses the opposition of publishing fake news
Accusing the opposition of attempting to sway votes with fake news, Malaysia’s government said that unverified news relating to the indebted 1MBD state fund was fake.
Several countries, including the US, have been investigating money laundering and cross-border embezzlement allegations at 1MBD, set up and once led by Najib. The state fund was established to promote economic growth, however, it has accumulated billions in depth. According to the Associated Press, the US Justice Department is attempting to seize 1.7 billion reportedly taken from the fund for the purchase of assets in the US. At least 4.5 billion have allegedly been stolen from 1MBD by Najib associates.
After this story broke three years ago, Najib fired several critics and continues to deny any involvement. Support for the government has been in decline for several years. Nonetheless, government sources believe that in-fighting among the opposition will lead to a government victory in the upcoming elections.
Other Asian nations are also believed to be close to introducing anti-fake news legislation.
Should anti-fake news legislation be introduced everywhere?
While opponents of anti-fake news legislation fear that such laws could curtail the freedom of expression and provide dictatorial governments with the tools to silence any opposition, several governments have been considering its introduction.
In January 2018, the French Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron promised to improve media laws this year. Following his election, Macron has been particularly critical of Russian media sources, accusing them of spreading false information about him, so the Independent reported in January 2018.
Social media platforms would have to operate to suit this legislation, especially in pre-election periods. Macron also said that such legislation would change the work of the French media watchdog, the CSA, drastically. Apart from websites having to disclose financial sources for content, the amount spent on sponsored content would also be capped.
In addition, French authorities would have the power to take emergency legal action against anyone publishing fake news stories. This would mean blocking the publication of specific content or even websites. Responding to critics, Macron said that such legislation would not curtail the freedom of the press, especially since it would only apply in the run-up to elections.
EU report on dealing with fake news
In March, the EU published a lengthy report on ways of counteracting fake news. In it, it recommends the establishment of a coalition comprising of social media representatives, journalists, and members of the public, collaborating in the fight against disinformation. Among other tasks, this coalition would pen a “code of practices.” While the recommendations make no suggestion of making the spreading of disinformation illegal, fact-checking lies at the core of its approach.
The motivation behind the publication of disinformation would also fall under scrutiny, with stakeholders as well as sponsors coming under the spotlight. While many observers consider this report as lacking in real substance, it will become part of a more comprehensive EU commission plan due before the summer of this year.
Fake news, a multi-edged sword bandied about by everyone
The term fake news has been saturating media pages over the last couple of years. From Donald Trump right through to Cambridge Analytica representatives, the spreading of disinformation has been used to boost political careers and destroy them. Meanwhile, politicians cry fake news when opponents point out failures and stakeholders create them for financial or political gains.
Social media platforms are caught in the middle, seemingly unwilling or perhaps unable to stem the flow of disinformation. Elections and referendums may have been lost or won through the use of fake news. So, should governments across the globe take action now, just like the Malaysian government, and introduce anti-fake news legislation? Or should we maintain the status quo to protect the freedom of the press?
Blaming Facebook for the Cambridge Analytica scandal is easy. Politicians and media outlets all over the globe have jumped on the bandwagon, denouncing Facebook’s failure to protect user data. But aren’t we missing the point here completely?
While Facebook, like Mark Zuckerberg said, is obliged to protect personal information, we should be asking about the people who’ve been using it and what they have been using it for. Facebook doesn’t put out fake news, nor does it spread it. I may allow it to happen but the responsibility lies with those who fabricate fake news stories rather than with Facebook.
In the case of the US presidential election, it seems Facebook was abused to spread fake news, discrete Hilary Clinton and spread pro-Trump sentiment. It now looks likely that Leave EU also carefully targeted individuals with pro Brexit stories on the social media platform. Most political figures now run social media campaigns and why shouldn’t they. However, when digital marketing firms like Cambridge Analytica are hired to manipulate the outcome of an election or a vote by using unethical methods and fake news, the democratic process becomes the prime victim. Isn’t it the responsibility of candidates to ensure that no unethical campaigning methods are used, be it on social media and elsewhere?
Spin Politics Is Alive and Well
Since the 1990s the public has been aware of spin politics. Here, politicians interpret and manipulate facts in way that it will influence voters in their favour. It now seems that spin politics has evolved into the beast that is fake news propaganda, a frightening form of #massmanipulation and a serious and real threat to democracy. Unless politicians themselves take responsibility and endeavour to engage in ethical and truthful electioneering tactics only, our democracy will be undermined further and further.
Why Aren’t There Laws Banning Fake News?
Legislators can do very little about the publication of fake news. According to an article on the Rasmussen College website, proceedings can only be taken by individuals who are victims of a fake news story. Even if someone does bring a lawsuit against the publisher of a fake news story, winning in court is exceedingly difficult. For that reason, people feel that perhaps the only way to curtail the impact of fake news is by getting social media platforms to better protect users.
However, this again leaves political campaign teams off the hook. As public representatives we should demand that they #StopSpinPoliticsNow and undertake to only use entirely ethical campaigning methods.
Digital marketing firms also share the burden of responsibility. Firms like Cambridge Analytica should not be allowed to engage in the type of practices they’ve obviously been excelling at.
Perhaps governments across the globe should take another look at legislating against the publication of fake news. Much like advertisers are not permitted to engage in untruthful advertising practices, politicians and digital marketeers should also not be permitted to publish and spread fake news stories.
Websites like Politifacts are doing really important work. Today, the trouble is that the public often no longer knows how to distinguish facts from spin and fake news.
In the developing world, 1 in 9 girls is married before they reach the age of 15, while 1 in 3 girls marry before they’re 18. Groups campaigning for the abolition of child marriage like Girls Not Brides report that each year, 12 million girls worldwide marry before reaching 18.
Because of population size, Sub-Saharan and West African countries have the highest numbers of child marriage, however, child marriage is proportionally most common in South Asia.
Why Do Parents Marry off Their Daughters?
Apart from child marriage traditions in certain areas of the world, poverty, gender inequality, and lack of education are the main causes. Parents in poor societies arrange marriages for their daughters to reduce the number of mouths to feed as well as to gain from dowries. In addition, gender inequality is also prevalent, with girls not valued in the same way as boys.
According to the International Center for Research on Women, education also plays a significant role. In Mozambique, for example, nearly 60 percent of uneducated girls are forced into marriage, whereas only 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling marry before reaching 18.
Girls Not Brides further explains that in some places, parents arrange marriages for their daughters to protect them against harassment, physical and sexual assault.
How Does Child Marriage Impact on Girls?
Girls who are forced into marriage often suffer a severe curtailment of their human rights and freedoms. Deprived of basic rights like health care, education, and personal safety, these girls have little hope of living their lives freely or pursuing a career.
In addition, girls who marry before reaching 18 are much more likely to become victims of domestic violence. According a ICRW study conducted in two states in India, child brides are twice as likely to be threatened, beaten or slapped by their husbands.
The psychological effects of child marriage are also devastating with many girls suffering from feelings of hopelessness and despair, signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome and of sexual abuse. With regard to physical health, Girls Not Brides points out that girl brides are much more likely to suffer pregnancy and childbirth complications or to contract the HIV virus.
Child Marriage is Legal in Over 100 Countries
According the PEW Research Center, UN and US state department data on 198 countries and territories showed that child marriage is legal in 117.
What Are Campaigners Doing?
Many charities are fighting to put an end to child marriage. According to figures published by UNICEF on 6 March 2018, numbers have been dropping by approximately 15 percent over the last decade. The greatest decline has been recorded in South Asia where figures dropped from 50 to 30 percent. Government action, better education along with public awareness campaigns into the ills of child marriage are believed to be the driving forces behind the drop.
The World Has Pledged to End Child Marriage by 2030
Though the recently released figures show a drop in child marriage numbers, efforts will need to be redoubled to achieve the goal of ending child marriage by 2030.