Monday 23 September 2019

Women in media: weaknesses in social media highlighted in Christchurch atrocity

Suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant has been charged with the murder of 49 people. Photo: Getty Images
Suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant has been charged with the murder of 49 people. Photo: Getty Images

Sinead Kelleher

THE Christchurch Mosque attack highlighted the weaknesses in social media platforms which allowed the live streaming and photos of the horrific attack be shared world-wide, according to leading social media experts.

Research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) Julia Ebner says that far-right groups and and Islamists are using 'loopholes' to be able to get content on social media platforms and that such groups are increasingly using  'dark social'  platforms to radicalise and share information which cannot be tracked as it evades the algorithms used.

She was speaking at on the 'Future of Social Media' at the Women in Media Conference in Ballybunion on Sunday morning, which is being sponsored by Vodafone. The panel also included Author and Social Media expert, Dr Ciarán McMahon, Gamer and Geologist, Aisling Ryan and head of News at Independent News and Media Jane Last. The panel was chaired by Social News Editor with the BBC Ciara Riordan.

A difficult conversation must be had about the future and the regulation of the social media industry, according to Dr McMahon who also cautioned about giving oxygen to hoaxes on social media site, for the example the Momo challenge, which recently caused hysteria across the country and which turned out to be a hoax.

"Facebook is not responsible for content. It is the user that is responsible for content. We have to deal with these platforms in a different way. A difficult conversation is needed by policy makers to regulate or moderate social media content."

"It is incredibly complicated how we regulate platforms not just from content but from an individuals psychological, mental and social needs."

"We must be careful not to over egg something for example with Momo. We need to be careful what we talk about. There are things we should not give attention to," added Dr McMahon.

He said that media organisations also have a role in this, particularly after the Christchurch attack, as media platforms also hosted material from the attack.

Ms Ebner said that the people that are spending the most on social media platforms are 'lunactics' and 'extremists' but that the business model of all such sites it to keep users on them as long as possible. 

New platforms are coming out all the time on 'Dark Social' and that many of those working in security are not always aware of the new sites.

It is similar for parents of teenagers whose children are using new sites that are out there that they may not be aware of.

Head of news at Independent News and Media, Jane Last, also said that while there are many negatives to social media there are also positives. Leading news organisations can now engage with readers and tell their stories.

"We can now interact and engage with readers on a hourly or daily basis. Before we had to wait for the letter to the editor. Issues like housing and health are amplified on social media and engaging with people on these issues can help form the news agenda."

Meanwhile, RTE broadcaster Katie Hannon was named as the recipient of the Mary Cummins Award for Women of Outstanding Achievement in the Media. Maurice and Lorraine McCabe  - with whom Ms Hannon did an acclaimed two part documentary - were among those to pay tribute to her.

Renowned news photographer Valerie O'Sullivan was awarded the Joan Kennelly Special Media Award, and Rosemary McCabe was named as recipient of the Social Media Award.

Online Editors

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