In its early years, social media promised a world where anyone could publish their thoughts about anything, and the whole world could respond. As social networks have come to realize that they are for-profit businesses that must turn a profit, that promise has slowly faded into the background. According to one commentator, that made spell the end for social media.
John Biggs of TechCrunch recently reported that the shareholders of social network companies are forcing them to censor content. Justyna Kieseilewicz, an artist, recently ran a Facebook ad that featured an artistic nude image. As you might expect, Facebook banned the ad. While corporate interests prevent people from sharing freely, journalists (who have business interests of their own) make people afraid to share freely. Biggs notes that CEOs have learned to their detriment that once a thought is posted online (on Twitter, Facebook or wherever), it never disappears.
Will these factors really kill social media though? The ability to share freely is one aspect of social media that people enjoy, but it is not the only such aspect. Even if people cannot share freely, they want to share. Perhaps social networks will simply grow into a service that focuses on a narrow range of communication.
There might be technological solutions to the problems Biggs cites, too. Snapchat, for example, built its business around the fact that many people do not want their messages to exist forever. There might be room for a social network with a credible no-censorship policy.