Friday, September 7, 2012

Social media - my opinion

Earlier this month, I made a contribution to an article by Rachel Shisei, a journalist in PNG, when she posted about the impact of social media in the country on Thadreina Abady's blog.

Firstly, I’d like to thank Rachel for writing her views about social media and its use in PNG. Thankyou Rachel! We need more journalists to write and bring this issue into the mainstream media and encourage more young people to digest and construct ideas from this.
I would like to add on to Rachel’s article here that one of the positive things to come out from the use of social media in this country is that it allows mainstream media organizations to get stories, data, tips and views off other people and organizations online on social networks – something that was almost impossible just a decade ago. Lately on the local television station, EMTV and in the local newspaper, Post Courier, I have seen Facebook posts used as news items. This sort of interaction is what the news media in PNG needs – people using a social website to post items that are news worthy. You never know, sooner or later, we may even have a Papua New Guinea version of Julian Assange doing a PNG version of Wiki Leaks! Another positive outcome for the use of the social media for many organisations is that it is a cost effective way to bring your message to the mass media and also the general population. Its way cheaper and can be visibly informative.
Other the other hand, social media use has some issues that need careful thought. I will not highlight all these issues but point out a few that I believe, are important. Firstly, there is currently, in my opinion, a lack of legislation and regulation to guide its use and protect people. For instance, if online bullying occurs, defamation, use of profane language, trolling, inciting hatred, etc happens online in social media, who regulates this bad behaviour? Do we just let it by? Can people be held accountable for their actions? Is there even a need to regulate use of social media? Others will say that any kind of regulation reduces the right to free speech as guaranteed in the PNG constitution! Sure, social media is a positive outlet for free speech but on the other hand, when it is used for actions that are irresponsible, who accounts for their actions? For example, if a group is formed on Facebook and users, using false names, write untrue and baseless information about somebody or an organisation, and this information is read widely, people form opinions and construct ideas based on that information. Who comes in and says “okay what you are saying here is not correct and illegal. You need to be responsible for your actions here”?
My second observation, and again this is my own opinion, that even though the older methods of news collection (fronting up at a office and doing face to face interviews or doing telephone interviews) are still prominent, I feel that there is a shift towards this new method of collecting news as I highlighted earlier (using Facebook posts as news items). Sometimes i worry about the ethical issues behind this method and get uncomfortable when i read news collection methods today that have gone overboard – if you can remember the News of the World phone hacking scandal in Britain last year. When news collection methods shift, does this mean that news values change?
For me, the most interesting thing about the use of social media in PNG is that its’ cost effectiveness, simplicity of use, connectivity combined with our personal yearning for social interaction online will drive its use further more into the future. A decade ago, we knew very little about social media. Today, a friend, wanting to communicate with you will ask: “Yu stap lo facebook tu?” ( Are you on Facebook?)!

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