LinkedIn’s legitimacy is the solution for social media

By George Esmond

A fortnight ago, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was the latest notable name to say goodbye to social media until the organisations online abuse is regulated “with the same vigour and ferocity” as copyright infringements.

His move follows the growing concern raised by elite football players targeted by racist abuse on social media platforms this season. Numerous players, including 16-year-old England international Jude Bellingham and Liverpool star Trent Alexander Arnold, have recently suffered heinous abuse online from fake accounts. It seems the hard work to ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ has been undone by the digital age. 

But now, footballers, managers and commentators are taking matters into their own hands. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has sparked a new campaign by handing over his social media accounts to the non-profit group CyberSmile to help change behavioural trends towards online abuse. 

Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has insisted it will only close accounts for repeated offences of hate speech, adding: “We don’t want discriminatory abuse on Instagram, and we remove it when we find it.” 

Between October and December last year, Instagram acted on 6.6 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram. Hardly a statistic to shout about. 

But while sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram continue to provide anonymity in the form of millions of fake accounts, its profitability will always be the price of controversy, vitriol, and abuse that has flooded these revolutionary tech spaces over recent years. It comes as no surprise when a 2019 US study found that 80 per cent of all tweets are made by just 10 per cent of users – highlighting a business model that thrives on more fake accounts than real ones. It, therefore, seems that Twitter’s attempts at cleaning up this contaminated space – expanding at a rate impossible to regulate – has no successful or hopeful strategy. 

But while harmful rhetoric continues to rage across our screens, a noisy neighbour has benefited from the perfect blend of user welfare and social engagement to aid growth. The model of LinkedIn highlights a platform that prides itself on safety, security, and legitimacy – with safeguarding measures in place to make sure those who join do so under genuine accounts. This yearning for authenticity led to a 26 per cent growth in LinkedIn’s user growth last year – more than the other three social media behemoths. 

The 2019 report showed that LinkedIn was the most trusted platform for the third year in a row — and claimed the top spot on Business Insider’s Pillars of Trust report. More members join and stay for the long haul, driving more opportunities for engagement initially and over time. And LinkedIn also retains first place when it comes to legitimacy.

More people this year than in 2019 – 69% vs 63% – said the LinkedIn platform “was either slightly or not at all likely to show them deceptive content like fake news”. While half of all participants said they feel extremely safe participating or posting on LinkedIn and engaging with other users,

The authenticity of LinkedIn accounts is helping foster meaningful connections with fellow users. Making them feel secure in joining and engaging with an online community is an important facet of digital trust. Something Twitter, Facebook and Instagram used to be known for. 

And the degree to which users feel safe on a platform is an indicator of their willingness to engage with content, including ads. As the primary revenue source for these conglomerates, one would think safety would be the principal concern. 

Trust – in the age of data harvesting, dark adverts, and fake accounts – is hard to come by. The LinkedIn model offers a starting point in aiding professional connection and collaboration that can also be adapted on other social sites.  Tech competitors should follow its model before governments have no choice but to determine the changes for them.