Joey Young: Social Media Needs a Gatekeeper

State of Newspapers Exclusive

It has been linked to increased sadness, lack of creativity and, most recently, accused of rigging a presidential election.

For something so simple that it lives in your pocket and is used to pass the time on the toilet, social media sure seems to have a powerful grip on the fabric of our lives.

Like I said: that’s a lot of power for a little blue box that gets opened with a press of your finger on the magical device in the palm of your hand.

The rise of social media has come swiftly, but the platform isn’t really that old.

Social media has yet to be disrupted like so many other industries have been over time, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

While social media is in its infancy, I believe a day of reckoning is about to come for that book of faces and the others that came afterward.

Poor decisions, primarily by Facebook, have led people to think about their relationship with the brand, how much time and trust they put into it, and most importantly, if social media should be held responsible for what is posted on its platform.

Craigslist is removing its “personals” section now that laws passed that claim they were aiding sex trafficking. The people who use their platform were using it for nefarious purposes. The platform is responsible for that, according to the new laws.

This development opens the door for more scrutiny, too. Why are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., not held liable for what is posted on their platforms like other media outlets are?

Like so many newspapers, we recently had to cover a school shooting threat at one of our high schools. There really was no threat made, rather a couple of teen girls told everyone they heard something, when they actually just heard someone else say they heard another person claim a student was going to shoot up the school. It was the worst game of “telephone” of all time.

Police investigated, no evidence was found, and no one really heard the student say anything; they just heard that someone heard it and passed it along.

When I was in school, that is where the story would have ended. Nobody was hurt, there would be some rumors flying about, but likely no one would even really know whatever happened or who was exactly accused.

Now, that isn’t the case.

During the investigation, the school district was peppered with phone calls from angry parents, questioning the district and the way they were handling things. They saw something on social media that a certain student was going to shoot up the school and were instantly angry.

Phone call after phone call poured in, angry the district wasn’t doing enough to protect their students, and then photos and the name of the accused student started showing up on Facebook and other platforms.

The face and name were scattered everywhere, telling anyone who could read that XXX student was going to shoot up the school and the district was doing nothing about it.

That student’s life is ruined.

It’s probably pretty hard to go back to school, even if intense efforts were put in place to clear your name, so long as everyone in town thinks you were going to shoot up the school. Hell, everyone in the neighboring towns probably thinks that now, too. Your social network doesn’t end with the borders of your town or school.

Now, if we would have printed a story with a mugshot of a student and his name underneath it saying he was going to shoot up a school with no evidence to that effect, we would probably be out of business, but social media presumably profited off the unfortunate event.

Stories like this will continue to pepper us as social media grows and people become even bolder than they already are on the various platforms.

Why is social media not liable for any of this, like any other media would be if they allowed such falsehoods printed or spoken on their platforms?

I think eventually they will be. They are “media,” aren’t they?

The more we learn about social media, the advent of “fake news” and just how powerful the tool in our pocket is to manipulate the mindset of millions, laws and protections will likely come to compensate.

Platforms that only allow verified content will potentially pop up and replace the platforms that currently exist.

Regardless, the reckoning for social media is coming, as no industry can go unscathed without disruption forever. In this case, if everyone can be a journalist, then everyone is going to need to be held to the same standards as one, too, and since that probably isn’t possible, the platforms that host the masses will have to bear that burden.

Traditional media has been a pretty good steward of the responsibility that comes with reaching thousands of people and being a trusted source for information. Social media hasn’t been held to those same standards, and maybe it’s about time they should be.

Ten years ago, my opinion on this would have been different. The idea of everyone having a voice and given a platform to be heard sounds great. Unfortunately, the masses can’t be trusted with that responsibility, and the brands that host them don’t take their responsibility seriously.

It’s time to change that.

When the time comes, power will be given back to professionals, who will likely get the opportunity to gain the public’s trust back, serve their communities and rebuild some of their business that social media disrupted in the first place.

The Internet gave people a way to be heard without going through a gatekeeper.

What we have learned is that people need someone to man the gate.

 

Joey Young

Kansas Publishing Ventures – Owner

Cell: 316-712-2125

The Clarion – www.clarionpaper.com 

Hillsboro Free Press – www.hillsborofreepress.com

Newton Now – www.harveycountynow.com 

The Edge – www.buyersedgeks.com 

Herington Times – www.heringtontimes.com 

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