Like so many others, we were appalled at the vicious abuse and racism levelled at Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho after the Euro Finals earlier this week. It’s not enough to say “this has to stop” or “there is too much hate on the internet” again and again – if, at some point, we don’t act, we are effectively surrendering to the status quo.
The problem ties to the comfort some people have sharing their racism or extremism online. How could they not, when social networks amplify and normalise their behaviour, even as the networks themselves rush to distance themselves from it. Content or comments that would never go unchecked in any other context are shrugged off on social media as “just part of the experience.” And so, we become accustomed to routinely experiencing the worst of the internet or, worse, becoming anaesthetised to it.
Social media thrives on engagement and what is sometimes called the “attention economy.” The more our focus is on what’s happening on social media, the more likely we are to see the advertisements that make social networks profitable. It doesn’t matter why we’re online or even if we like what we’re seeing – as long as we are logged in and scrolling through, we fuel the very economic engine that delivers us more of what makes us unhappy online. Social networks have always had the ability to prioritise connection, community, and wellbeing, but they have opted, instead, for commercialising pettiness and doomscrolling, with the inevitable escalation in abuse that comes along with it.
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It does not have to be this way. In fact, it takes a conscious choice not to make things better.
Bright rejects the idea that a fractured internet is a given, and is building a social network focused on community, mutual respect, and privacy. We believe that people want, and deserve, an online community focused on genuine connection and authenticity, where we hold one another accountable just as we would if we were together in person. Rashford, Saka, and Sancho deserve so much better than what they’ve been subjected to, but the crucial point is that everyone else who has fallen prey to racism and bigotry online does, too.
Bright is based on the idea that promoting the best of the internet is more than enough to keep our attention, inspire us, and give us something to talk about. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to talk about the difficult issues – in fact, it’s impossible to have a real community without disagreement and addressing the hard questions.
That’s why we’re announcing a live-streamed, roundtable discussion in the Autumn where we’ll talk with some of the world’s experts on connected media, racism online, and the effect of social media on how we engage with one another. More importantly, we’ll incorporate the lessons from this discussion into how we run Bright – just as we will each year, when we host the roundtable again. Some of these experts are already a part of our Advisory Board, guiding our decisions even before the beta launch.
As a company, we’re committed to the same kind of transparency and accountability as our Members. Our challenge to the other social networks is to do the same. Until then, we encourage everyone to learn more about stopping online hate by reading and signing the Online Safety Petition.