Business requires a stable playing field to prosper. They can’t risk having their customers questioning their ethics or their commitment to the democratic process. But that’s exactly what just happened with several large corporations and several large social media platforms. The events of January 6th put these Big Boys on the spot. Were they inadvertently sponsoring violence?
Would that question hurt those big companies? And for social media providers, would that question hurt advertising and result in more controls on their platforms? Many evidently couldn’t wait to find out. They had to get out in front of the problem. So several large, well-known companies immediately ceased political donations and several large social media providers finally enforced their stated rules of not “broadcasting” untruths or incitement to violence.
21st Century Elba
Today, being permanently banished from Twitter and other social media is like what happened to Napoleon in 1814 when he was permanently banished to the island of Elba. Interestingly, in the 21st Century, this was not done by any government, but by private industry seeking to protect their own business!
Today, social media providers make money on the traffic. They argue that they are simply a communications platform and cannot be held responsible for the posts of their users. And sure, they waive the 1st Amendment around. But the vast majority of their customers didn’t see it that way. They saw what occurred and asked, “How could this happen? Was the platform itself enabling misinformation and violence by allowing it to be spread?”
Guilt by Association
There’s a good reason Napoleon was banished to Elba; it was to isolate and muzzle him. There’s a good reason why social media has and will continue to tag misinformation and banish abusers who misinform others and incite violence; it is to isolate and muzzle them.
In the long run, abusers are simply bad for business! Would you advertise or purchase goods and services from a company that appears to condone violence? It’s notably regrettable that both the big corporate donors and the social media platforms did not take action sooner, before, however inadvertently, they were associated with the way their donations and social media services were used.
So now we are witnessing one more check and balance we enjoy that’s not in the constitution. It’s in the marketplace!
Market Forces to the Rescue
This action by the private sector certainly puts their users and beneficiaries on notice. You can lose your funding and be banished from social media if you promote falsehoods and incite violence. The private sector can choose to do business with whomever they please and under the conditions and rules they demand. “No shoes, no shirt, no service!”
Unfortunately, too many people have become strung out on social media. Not only did social media allow communication between the insurrectionists, but it was a repository for their documentary images designed to get clicks, “likes”, comments, and shares – even if it was illegal, even if it was violent!
Notice how the January 6th rioters were preoccupied with selfies and shocking images of disrespect, defamation, and entitlement. They evidently felt that posting the riot was going to give them the affirmation, the validation, and the endorphins they crave.
A Bridge Too Far
This was obviously a bridge too far. We are very disappointed with the way social media has gotten out of control. People are getting hurt, and our institutions have been damaged. There evidently needs to be a whole lot more control over how social media is used with a healthy respect for its addicting nature.
As businesspeople and business promoters, we are proud that the marketplace itself exerts a balancing force to counteract this kind misinformation and violence. We hope that customers will overwhelmingly continue to avoid businesses that advertently or inadvertently enable misinformation and violence.
Each time we give our time, attention, or money to a company, we are sponsoring and voting for what that company stands for. Every vote counts. What sort of conduct are you supporting?
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
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