Friday 19 January 2018

Newspapers have to be careful, but social media is a free-for-all

On this page last week I wrote about Facebook and Twitter and the challenge they are to conventional, or should I say traditional, media platforms, including newspapers, and how they have forced newspapers, editors and journalists to adapt.

However, is it not correct to say that we all have had to adapt. While the internet is a wonderful tool and social media has many advantages in keeping in touch with friends and family, there is a dangerous element to social media.

As a newspaper editor I am confined by the Defamation Act 2009. I cannot print what I like, or at least I can't if I don't want to be successfully sued and that is how it should be. Newspapers have great power and with that power comes responsibility. We are controlled by the boundaries of defamation and we endeavour to stay within those boundaries.

Sometimes we get it wrong and are brought to task by the legal profession, the Press Ombudsman or the Press Council.

My point is, who controls the comments, commentary, criticisms and posts on Facebook, Twitter, chatrooms, blogs and other social media platforms?

They say people in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones and I am not arrogant enough to say that everything printed on these pages is 100% correct, but you as a reader have recourse to challenge what was printed.

What challenge is there to people posting on social media?

There has never been more information available quite literally at our fingertips. We are drowning in a sea of information. Some of it correct, some incorrect, some misguided, some damaging and some vicious. We cannot control the quality of information or the accuracy of it.

A simple internet search and you can find out anything about anything or anyone.

There is no accountability or traceability.

This week a local businessman stated that he was quitting his charitable Halloween and Christmas shows after negative anonymous comments.

We have all heard the tragic stories of teenagers who have been victims of cyber bullying some of whom have taken their own lives.

The web and social media can be wonderful tools to help us learn, keep in touch and be informed, but they have a dark side. They have developed at such a pace in recent years that regulation has not been able to keep pace.

There is no call for Big Brother but at the moment it too easy to trash someone or something with no accountability or need to stick within restrictions that apply to traditional media.

The Argus

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