Lawyers are keen to bring cases of libel Tweets to court.
After all, there’s money in it. Also, there’s a moral obligation.
Twitter and Facebook can be a dangerous influence on the public, right ?
Take the UK riots in 2011. Much was made of BBM and Facebook. However, the first night in Tottenham was small scale, compared to what followed.
Don’t blame Social Media. Blame ‘News Media’
To get things going, what it really needed was a big TV campaign. Perhaps from a media organisation, under intense scrutiny, at the time. A very short piece of film footage on a continuous loop, appearing to show the public getting away with looting. That should do it.
The riots that followed made the Police and Government look impotent. Prosecuting large corporates is difficult, but arresting individuals – in the interests of public order of course – is low cost and easy.
Whilst riots were going on elsewhere, Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan put up a Facebook page called ‘Smashdown in Northwich Town’. Despite neither having previous convictions and no riot taking place here, Jordan and Perry were both given 4 year prison sentences.
Remember Freedom of Speach
So, should the judicial system continue handing out over the top sentences, for every off the cuff post ? And we say North Korea is oppressed. Hold Twitter accountable ? Nonsense. Before you publish a tweet you do not send it off to the Chief Editor of Twitter for approval ! Nor should you. 1Twitter’s “capacity to spread false information is more than cancelled out by it’s savage self-correction”.
Media should aspire to regain it’s authority
For official News Media to have any relevance it should not try to emulate Social Media. Clearly the BBC doesn’t understand this yet otherwise you wouldn’t have the Philip Schofield trying to conduct trial by television of the most serious offences on day time TV.
Stop making allegations about specific individuals who have not yet been convicted. Believe it or not, sometimes there can be smoke without fire. Gary Glitter used to use lots of it in his act. Oops. That’s confused things.
Whilst not fashionable at the moment, the answer may be to return to research based reporting. No more vacuous 24 hour news TV channels. Accept that Social Media will always be first on the scene with mobile camera phones, but use this as raw primary research, i.e. information that needs to be investigated, researched and authenticated first.
That way the BBC may still be a relevant news service in ten years time.
1Source: BuzzFeed.com via The Week Issue 895, 17 Nov 2012