22 March 2019
Shaun Westgate, Managing Director

Social Media needs governance

Social Media

Part of the internet’s appeal and ultimate success is that it offers an online environment where the rules are different from normal daily life.

If we spent our daily life screaming obscenities and bullying people who we didn’t like the look of or whose views we disagreed with we would soon find ourselves in ‘hot water' as this would be going against all the well established laws of our civilised society. These laws govern our behaviour within our communities and encourage us to be polite and respectful to the people around us.

But the internet is a very different place with very different rules. The big social media companies have created platforms so popular and successful that they are now struggling to control extreme and criminal behaviour – a new breeding ground for abusive and exploitative users.

There are many examples, from terrorist groups sharing extreme content to mobilise hate crimes to organisations creating fake news stories to change opinion and influence legislative power. These platforms have also attracted many criminal groups who are able to share highly sensitive material without being policed.

There are many positive aspects to social media from keeping us connected, enabling us to share and receive compelling and engaging content and helping us stay informed as key events unfold around the world in real time. But we now need much more intervention, with governments and the big social media companies working together to change behaviours and help prevent this criminal activity.

Clearly, monitoring behaviours on these vast social media platforms is a big challenge, and it’s critical we maintain freedom of speech so we need to use current technologies to help do the ‘heavy lifting’. We know machine learning is a powerful tool and one which can be deployed with the combination of filters to identify bullying and extreme material.

There also needs to be severe fines and more criminal sentencing introduced for extreme content posted online – this is not identified and removed quickly enough by social media companies. Most importantly surveillance laws need to be reviewed and amended so that policing extreme behaviour is made alot easier.

These thoughts and ideas are really only 'scratching the surface’. Most of us share a desire to improve the way we live and work in this new digital world but we need the collective help of every company, organisation and government to ensure that social media is used for what it was intended and not to our society’s and our individual detriment.

In the meantime, it is vital that every organisation has a clear strategy in place for not only how they communicate across their social media channels, but also how they respond to negative or potentially damaging communication or messages directed at them. This needs to include messaging and tone of voice, key roles and responsibilities across an organisation for owning communication, protocols for responding to any messages in a timely and coordinated way and pre-prepared lines to take.

If you would like to discuss any issues relating to your online and content strategies for your business or organisation please get in touch with our expert team info@westgatecomms.com – we would be delighted to talk to you.


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