Ready to hear the dumbest thing ever said about social media?
The central point here is whether Twitter and Facebook, as publishers of content, should be as accountable as traditional media. The problem is one of scale. Traditional media controls its content by employing finite numbers of staff, freelance journalists and news agencies. In contrast, Facebook have an army of "citizen journalists" numbering 500 million and Twitter 175 million and don't employ any of them.
Clearly, they are going to have to introduce a delay mechanism so that content can be checked before it goes up. There will have to be a completely different structure, which will be difficult when the whole thing about Twitter is its spontaneity.
[...]Twitter and Facebook are not blank sheets of paper. They are media publishers like any other. Social networking at the moment is like a pioneering goldrush; a real land grab. We have to get some sort of international arbitration set up, which the Americans would need to be involved in, and quickly.
Those are the words of words of the UK's self-proclaimed leading business and public relations consultant, Richard Hardgrove.
We suspect his hat may be "In this style 10/6." He is seriously calling for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to put up a filter between the users and the Tweet button.
While he is correct that these sorts of sites are becoming important ways for people to spread news and other information traditionally left up to mainstream media, such as newspapers and television, his proposal is simply insane. Not only would it be virtually impossible to implement any sort of review process, it would undo the good these media have provided.
"Citizen journalism" has taken off specifically because there is no such filter. There is no editor in chief saying "this isn't news worthy" or "this might offend our readers and sponsors." The lack of any filters does result in a lot of idiocy, and plainly false stories being spread (Camping always said the world would end in October, this isn't changing his story; May 21st was judgment, not sentencing, so stop posting that damn story all over my Facebook wall).
But, these sites have also exposed holes in the mainstream media. Stories that would otherwise go untold show up on blogs. Ideas that can't fit into a 30 second clip are fleshed out, even if they do compete with space about news of what your puppy had for lunch. The last thing we need is for social media to become more like mainstream media. Even the mainstream media has noticed this, increasingly turning to blogs and ordinary folks for reporting.
Thankfully though, the Americans have already spoken on this issue. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects service providers from liability for things their users say. This goes from your ISP all the way up to the person who owns an unmoderated forum. We also have those pesky things called Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and possible even the Freedom of Assembly applies.
Individual speakers can still be held accountable, but trying to make Twitter responsible for every single Tweet is like making a bar tender responsible for every dumb thing said by a drunk patron.
On the other hand, Hardgrove does have a pretty fetching wife. If that's what having idiotic ideas gets you, then might we suggest that Facebook be required to purchase a business license for every city and county in which there is at least one Facebook user.