Social media – force for good or evil?

Yesterday saw an escalation of the power of social media in two different, but related arenas.

Social media – force for good or evil?

Yesterday saw an escalation of the power of social media in two different, but related arenas. First up was the new ‘advertising-free’ Alan Jones show on 2GB. General Manager of Macquarie Radio Network announced Mr. Jones’ show would run without advertisements. Macquarie chairman, Russell Tate, said they had taken “... this unprecedented decision to suspend advertising in the Alan Jones Breakfast Show until further notice so that all of our advertisers are on an equal footing, can regroup and discuss with us the way forward”. Mr. Jones said on air that he had been the victim of cyber bullying and that if such bullying happened elsewhere, the police would be called in.

Later in the day, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, conducted a Facebook question and answer session in order to discuss education reforms, in particular the Gonski report. Whilst most of the interaction was positive, some respondents took the chance to post offensive remarks about Ms. Gillard, going as far as to inquire about her recently deceased father. The offensive comments were removed from the Prime Minister’s Facebook page by a moderator.

Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald or watch the ABC news coverage.

The genie is out of the bottle

Delivering the Alfred Deakin Lecture last night, Opposition spokesman for communications and broadband, Malcolm Turnbull commented that Mr. Jones was not a victim of cyberbullying and that social media now allows thousands of Australians to speak back "unedited and unmediated".

And this is what happened on Facebook to the Prime Minister. While her office has every right to conduct a conversation on Facebook, it cannot expect to control the discussion and potential posts which are rude, disparaging, even libelous. Such posts can, of course be removed, but not until after they have gone live.

So this week we have evidence that the conversation is no longer one way. The social media genie is indeed out of the bottle and we are now able to make any comment we wish, on websites, Facebook pages and in the Twittersphere. We can also join online campaigns, such as the recent push to deny fishing rights to the supertrawler the Abel Tasman and the petition to discourage advertising on Mr. Jones' radio program.

Is this cyberbullying? I don’t think so. I think it is freedom of speech. We live in a free country, so what could possibly be wrong with using our voices online, as long as our comments are courteous?

Cyberbullying is much darker than disagreeing with a company or media personality. True cyberbullying is a sustained and deliberate attack on individuals to harm them – as witness teenage suicides after persistent personal abuse online.

The tables have turned. Instead of citizens only receiving media information and opinions, thanks to the internet, we can all be citizen authors. I believe this is a positive development – as long, I repeat, as the discussion is courteous. As Voltaire is reported to have said in the 18th Century, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Go Voltaire, go Malcolm!!!!

What do you think?

Is social media a force for good or evil?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    9th Oct 2012
    Kay Fallick gives links to SMH & ABC. Might I suggest that a link to The Australian would give less ALP biased news coverage.
    9th Oct 2012
    Yes I agree, there is a definate leaning to the left, puts me off taking note of any advertising on this site
    Kaye Fallick
    9th Oct 2012
    Hi smithjj
    this is Kaye - wanting you to know why i linked to SMH and the ABC. It is because the News Limited papers are mainly behind a paywall and it would be a waste of time for most of our members to click to something they cannot access. So we tend to select a range of media outlets for our news topics and hope to cover a range of biases - whether considered to be left, centre or right. I hope this helps. Kind regards
    9th Oct 2012
    as I looked at the poll above the Good = 80%
    Mobile phones have already helped toppled governments and now internet social media in this country has suddenly found a firm footing regarding the public's stance - at long last and maybe just in time as the ALP threatens to impose stricter censorship laws. Libel laws must be quickly adapted to suit otherwise defamation will become a norm - probably not what society should embrace as a standard acceptable behaviour. Those in the public arena who hold positions of influence / commentary / authority must now be very careful as to what they say. Wait until voting is online and interactive !!!!!!
    9th Oct 2012
    Social media is good in that it gives everyone a voice (right or wrong) the problem lies in that the social media networks keep changing the goals lines and it is becoming a pain to keep up, a good example is that FaceBook just altered the time line so that everything could be seen (on my timeline back to 2007, I had already limited my timeline so this should not have been possible, so I had to do it again, they are becoming a real pain.
    Like many of them it is about money and advertising not about social media, it's just called that!!!
    9th Oct 2012
    I disagree with Alan Jones and his arrogance, however, Malcolm Turnbull is not much better, I personally feel he should get out of the Liberal Party and become an independent, methinks that won't happen as he sure wants that top position, eh!, I do not see him as a party man, bit of a weasel, methinks!
    fish head
    9th Oct 2012
    I am all for people having their own opinion and being free to express it (go Voltaire!). However people also have to be very aware that not everyone will share their view for an infinite range of reasons. Disagreement with a point of view is NOT a personal attack on the individual and should not be seen as such. Too many respondents lose sight of this and go for the jugular. Not courteous, not terribly Australian.
    9th Oct 2012
    Lauren, I'm not too sure Mr. T belongs in the Lib/Nat Party either.

    On social media ... I think citizens have the capacity to be much more informed (and confused) with the help of the Internet. It can be a wonderful tool or a bad master. I agree fish head, if we listen we will learn. We will learn what is the right information and what is the wrong information, but we will not learn if we don't listen to all sides. Listen and you will be listened to.
    9th Oct 2012
    At least Malcolm Turnbull is not all for Alan Jones, like Tony Abbot tries to weld us in all to believing he is so good even to the point of his hapless wife standing up saying Tony is great etc., ^ then says Mr Jones is not to be bullied into not advertising. Who is bullyin Tony ??
    9th Oct 2012
    This is a question that has no answer.Whether social media is a force for good or evil depends entirely on what purpose it is used for by those participating.
    11th Oct 2012
    I agree. It can show the best and the worst of society. It also allows every knucklehead to join in. These columns seem to be far more left leaning than middle of the road.
    Barbara Mathieson
    10th Oct 2012
    Social media people can be good or evil!
    11th Jan 2019
    Facebook is the most evil uncontrolled social experiments ever done.
    We are but pawns whose private details are sold to anybody with money.
    Facebook is the most beloved tool used by of all dictatorial governments and election bending parties

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