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Should social media be controlled by legislation?

  • Yes – same laws as printed media 16%
  • All media culture has gone crazy 15%
  • Don't bother – it's impossible 22%
  • No – free expression is good 33%
  • Slightly – protect assets like IPR 14%


Comment from Justin Roux, Senior Vice-President of Communications at Luvata:

I’ll be blunt:  this topic keeps me awake at night; not because it’s a work issue, but because it’s a huge social issue. With that being the case, join me as I empty my worried mind on to your screen.

What are we really examining here? What is the cause for concern? It’s simply the power of social media to influence the mass consciousness. The mass consciousness is the power of the majority moving as one. When expressed through a handful of channels, it can elevate or destroy people or organisations. It’s the basis for democracy and it’s the backlash that swallows dictators. It’s the same power that has caused revolutions, toppled kings, lifted celebrities to immortality, and condemned people to the blackest corners of our history. It’s a huge amount of power – the mass consciousness is the greatest social power on Earth.

Let me get my breath back. Let’s get back to the question.

‘Should we’ or ‘could we’?

I’m going to split the five answers into two groups: ‘should we’ and ‘could we’, because whether or not we should means nothing if we can’t. 22% says “Don’t bother” and 15% despairs at craziness.

Of the remainder – the ‘should we’ - 33% supported free expression, more than double the amount that supported any sort of legislation. In fact, only a quarter of the ‘should we’ group called for the same laws as printed media. That means only a quarter upheld the law of libel. That’s quite conclusive.

Fame for everyone

Alasdair Campbell, the PR guru who took Tony Blair through the Gulf War and its enquiry, said “the audience have become authors, and they are the strictest of critics.” Social media does more than tell you that John and Sarah are getting married, or show you pictures of some stranger’s hangover. Social media will expose poor products; it will bring bad laws and corrupt politicians into the light. In short, it will expose gaps in their integrity and it will be their judge, their jury and their executioner.
That’s why politicians are becoming personalities. Yes, even our governments spend the majority of their time playing to the crowd. The big combined voice that we only used to have when elections came about has become a daily expression. “Trial by majority” - that’s good, isn’t it? That’s live democracy, isn’t it?

But should we trust the twitter generation to measure right from wrong?

Who is fit to judge?

I was listening to a radio chat show about the European referendum last month. I was shocked at the level of public ignorance, malice and lack of knowledge of even the basics of European Government. Time and time again, I heard statements of such superficial anger that they could only have come from one source – newspaper headlines. That’s frightening.

If we are to trust the twitter generation, we must trust their parents. The twitter generation was brought up on a diet of sensationalist news, designed to sell papers more than to inform. I can’t help but think that the twitter generation is over sexualised, debauched and obsessed with celebrity - but is that a reason to deny it a voice?

If social media holds up a mirror to the world and asks it if it likes what it sees, it will surely expose its own ugliest authors and therefore be self-regulating. Perhaps freedom of expression will talk us out of the ugly views of the consumerist era. It could be a natural evolution in society, and therefore stopping it would be as morally wrong as poisoning an ants’ nest just because it threatened a picnic.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is to stay as we are.

This is what keeps me awake. Do we steer our societies by the whim of a generation that worships junk food and watches the gory murder of Saw movies for entertainment, or do we stick with the governments and media channels that allowed us to become this way to begin with?

Forgive me – I’m painting a false image of a world in which the twitter generation is nothing but pizza-stuffed celebrity worshippers and all governments are morally negligent. That’s not true, but it IS the stereotype...

...and the mass consciousness thrives on stereotypes.

To be honest, I have no idea, but I’m glad I can express myself about it.


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