Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Facebook censorship an important media regulator

UPDATE: Hot on the heels of the article that prompted this post, The Guardian published a major report into the secretive workings of Facebook, including revealing their specific censorship policies: their internal guide for moderators on what is and is not acceptable. Read their coverage here. There is a clear issue: doesn't Facebook (and Twitter, Reddit etc) need regulating within the UK - perhaps by IPSO?! Or should governments just ignore such global entities as impossible to effectively regulate?!

Special section of The Guardian with its revelations about its secretive policies

Alongside Google's enforcement of the right to be forgotten across the EU, which effectively deletes many 1000s of news stories when their subject (committing an embarrassing or criminal act) complains, Facebook's vague media policies need to be considered as a highly influential, important strand of media regulation separate from the formal industry regulators such as OfCom and IPSO.
The law courts have always formed another separate plank, with libel and slander laws used to sidestep the regulators and often extract heavy punitive payments from newspapers especially, a financial penalty that might make self regulation work if it were a punishment IPSO could enforce. The super-injunction should serve as a warning that such regulation-by-courts often does not serve democracy well. Many papers will fold, ceasing investigations, not publishing critical articles, pulling articles off their website and publicly searchable archives, to avoid potentially crippling legal fees even if they win!!!

Facebook and Google are increasingly central to how we access and experience media, not least news media. If a paper or article doesn't appear in the top few results of a Google research it effectively doesn't exist, not least for the under-30s who have mostly lost the habit of buying or reading any daily newspaper. Likewise, if it's output isn't granted prominence in a Facebook user's newsfeed, alongside the latest cat videos or news of a friend's eating at a restaurant, then for many they simply disappear.
The web giants' policies therefore matter - and arguably should be regulated by national media regulators (as well as at the EU, supranational level).

When Facebook censors investigative journalism like the case below, there should be consequences. However, consider how this currently works for the established media. If the BBC ignores details of Tory policy and record, but interrogates and attacks Labour on small details of theirs, as several recent academic studies have shown they have been doing, does it's own board or OfCom issue any punishment for failing to maintain its legally required political neutrality? Nope. There is fervent Facebook and Twitter activity to expose and share such Beeb bias, but this is dismissed by BBC grandees. Even when such complaints do actually result in an acknowledgement of failure to maintain neutrality, as in the case of political reporter Laura Kuenssberg, her line managers simply dismiss the internal ruling as wrong.

Social media can be a more effective way to get the media to enforce it's own codes of standards, as John Prescott, former Labour Deputy PM showed by shaming the Sunday Times (they made up quotes from him) into removing an article within hours of his tweet. He ignored the ineffectual PCC.
Following the internationally embarrassing own goal of banning an iconic journalistic image of a young girl from the Vietnam conflict, blocking Norway's PM being one of the censorship acts that made this story spread quickly:

Facebook subsequently amended its policy, announcing that it would allow people to publish material that would otherwise violate its standards if it was found to be “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest”. [Facebook blocks Pulitzer-winning reporter over Malta government exposé ?]


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