Regulating Social Media in the Global South
In recent years, the disinformation crisis has made regulating social media platforms a necessity. The consequences of disinformation campaigns are not only limited to election interferences or political debates, but have also included fatal consequences. In response, scholars have generally focused on regulating social media companies in the United States without paying much attention to these companies’ global impact, particularly in the Global South. Lost in the quest to fight disinformation is addressing the social media companies’ neglect of consumer rights in the Global South.
Countries in the Global North, such as the United States, have the power to regulate social media companies should they choose to do so. However, the current power asymmetry between major social media companies and countries in the Global South limits the ability of many of such countries to have any meaningful bargaining power to advocate for their citizens’ consumer rights and their ability to manage misinformation campaigns in their sovereign territories. In some countries, it is even unclear if there is any political will from their respective government to advocate for consumer rights. This problem will not be resolved by relying on corporate social responsibility or corporate self-governance. Thus, this Article argues that unless countries in the Global South act collectively, they should not expect any major change from powerful social media companies in handling misinformation in their countries or promoting their citizens’ consumer rights. Regional treaties among countries, as a form of collective action, could push social media companies to be more attentive to their actions outside the Global North and bear responsibility in a transnational space. Ultimately, collective action in the Global South could inspire a global coalition and promote global accountability.