Communication entails the media, and with the recent growth in technology, the internet has become one of the leading sources of communication. As the world keeps experiencing this rapid shift on the internet with the spread of news being at the click of a button, changes are being made fast. Ethics and the internet have become one of the leading issues discussed concerning communication. The rise of fake news and hate speech has made it a concern among many in the communication world. This essay looks into the various media and communication ethics issues in general by giving and citing examples of how they are managed by the people concerned.
Case for censoring or restricting the spread of fake news
The spread of fake news has been at the forefront of the media over recent years. The internet has become a radical place for opinions and unproven facts that many propagandists have taken it within themselves to spread and continue fueling fake news. Recent leading cases have been aimed at censoring or restricting fake news (Lee, 2019). Facebook is one of the leading social media platforms in the digital era and has over two billion users on its platform (Lee, 2019). While Facebook has made drastic changes that would look into curbing the spread of fake news, they have not done it in full effect, as many cases are still reported on the platform.
The United States 2016 election is one of the leading cases of fake news that was covered. Facebook played a key role as there was a high increase in the number of fake news on the platform. At the time, Mack Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, was required to provide evidence that the spread of fake news did not affect the election outcome (Lee, 2019). Facebook has made strides to curb this spread of fake news on the platform, and this is still not working fully, a clear indication that much needs to be done (Lee, 2019).
Regulation of content being left in the hands of commercial platforms
The growth in the number of consumers and the leading online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made self-regulation more relevant. As lawmakers worldwide are working to improve online regulations, social media platforms are also given policies and the mandate to make their self-regulatory policies (Roberts, 2019). These policies aim to reflect changes in privacy issues and protect users from fake news. Different ways are integrated, as many states create policies that look into addressing self-regulation (Roberts, 2019). The most common policy is public transparency, which allows the platforms to inform the public of any changes and any breach of conduct or fake news.
There should be a concern to this form of self-regulation, and this is due to how it functions. The big social media platforms draw millions of users a year or in a day (Roberts, 2019). The best tool these platforms have integrated to handle self-regulation is the algorithms. Algorithms work because they are coded technology tools that can help dictate unwanted or harmful content in the platforms and block them from being accessed by the users (Roberts, 2019). While these algorithms are useful tools, they often fail to work effectively when curbing fake news. This raises concern: the platforms’ use of self-regulation often fails to fully address the spread of fake news.
Potential harms to health from misinformation and health bloggers
Misinformation on the internet affects both the physical and mental well-being of society. Health bloggers are on the rise, and with every click, a person can access information on the internet regarding health (Swire & Lazor, 2020). The recent advent and increase in advertisements that pop up on every page are also alarming. The advertisements are often loaded with the need to improve someone’s health and continually provide remedies or solutions that medical practitioners have not proved.
Mental health issues have been on the rise in the past years with the spread of misinformation, especially among the youth. The recent increased news in body positivity and weight loss has negatively affected the approach bloggers use when addressing this issue, which has created pressure in society (Swire & Lazor, 2020). Bloggers have become the increased source of medical advice among the youth. The bloggers who are now easily accessed are giving health information by providing options for recovery and medication (Swire & Lazor, 2020). While these bloggers have been the modern source of news, concern rises whether they are doing this for their monetary gain or to benefit society.
Bloggers moral responsibility with relation to COVID-19
Ethics guide society as a responsibility, and when related to media, they are to be upheld as the moral responsibilities of the bloggers. Bloggers are given the mandate to provide information that is reliable and true (Ghezzi et al., 2020). While the recent pandemic that is COVID-19 became a leading source of news and the most searched information on Google in the year 2020, bloggers rushed to provide information to society but were fueled by misinformation (Ghezzi et al., 2020). The most common misinformation regarding the virus included treatment remedies often debunked by health practitioners as untrue. Blogs repeatedly provided misinformation regarding prevention, which was an issue as many focused on spreading lies regarding the vaccine.
Bloggers often present a question regarding opinions. When bloggers mix opinions with ethics, there is a polarizing sense that misinformation may arise (Ghezzi et al., 2020). It is easy to theorize the use of ethics in media, but it becomes a different issue when put into practice. Bloggers are given the mandate to be information providers and act as a support source to their loyal base (Ghezzi et al., 2020). They should be well informed of their responsibility based on consequentialism, a theory that suggests positive consequences.
The #Metoo movement
The #Metoo movement has grown to be one of the most recognizable activist media in the internet era. The movement was aimed at the sexual abusers in the media who had silenced their victims for the longest time. The question arises on how significant was the movement with regards to social media communication and ethics (Laidlaw, 2017). As Twitter went on a frenzy about the abusers being exposed by the accusers in the online platform with major newspaper and magazine platforms taking part in the movement, it became a global phenomenon (Laidlaw, 2017). Yes, the movement was an important historical event for addressing the media as an activist tool and also part of public shaming. The #Metoo movement can be seen as a positive effect of public shaming in the media in a society where victims of sexual assault had been silenced for years (Laidlaw, 2017). It plaid the most critical role in changing and shaping the media, especially online media.
The controversy in Australia over Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia has been one of the most polarizing laws regarding the freedom of speech in the country (Sorial, 2017). There are both sides of the section: one side that supports the act as it aims to protect the dignity of the people who are likely to experience any sense of discrimination in the media. The other side is that it cripples the country’s media, especially regarding freedom of expression (Sorial, 2017). The most persuasive side is that it should be reviewed to make changes in the act.
Certain aspects of section 18C are not relevant to modern times in the media in general. The act has made little or no changes in the media world that could showcase its importance (Sorial, 2017). When looking into Scanlon’s opinion on freedom of expression, they regard its importance on the idea that a person’s choice is driven by good reasons of which Section 18c denies entirely.
Issues concerning privacy or defamation on the internet and comparison of two countries legislation response
The internet is a vast place for any source of information. Unlike traditional media sources, it has no borders, making defamation one of the leading issues of concern. Many countries around the globe have not fully exercised defamation laws on the internet. In Australia, the regulations regarding defamation have not been clearly defined towards the internet’s extent (Rolph, 2019). In Australia, the laws have little or no reflection on modern social media platforms; this is partly due to the mandate given to social media to act as a self-regulation platform (Rolph, 2019). Defamation and its whole entirety are not addressed. In France, defamation laws extend to the internet and are practiced in the law.
The most common idea placed on internet defamation laws is freedom of speech and expression. While defamation laws are often exercised to provide privacy and maintain the individual’s dignity, the internet has made it hard to exercise these laws (Hassan, 2019). In most instances, social media platforms only operate on policies set to them by the countries or the unions such as the European Union (Hassan, 2019). The best means of addressing this problem is to hold the social media platforms responsible, which can be well exercised by creating strict policies for a user in the outlets.
Hate speech has been a term used in the media to explain many forms of language violence. In France, hate speech laws are exercised on ethnicity, race, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or nation (Brown & Sinclair, 2019). Online the law was revised to address the same, which would result in a fine. In Germany, hate speech is exercised in the same way as France, with France having borrowed law concepts from Germany. These both are the best ways of addressing the problem as they regulate the spread and glorification of hate.
Trolling is a modern phenomenon in the new media. Trolling is an internet slang defined as intentionally upsetting or creating a rage on the internet to provoke responses. The person responsible for trolling is regarded as a troll (Roberts, 2019). Trolling has been common in platforms such as Twitter, where many public figures have been reported to have experienced this in their career (Roberts, 2019). In a few cases, trolling has caused harm or psychological damage through the spread of propaganda. There are no rules that address trolling in many countries, which has allowed it to go on for so long to the extent of online harassment (Roberts, 2019). The lack of sufficient protection has led to the rise of trolls, only living it to the social media companies to create policies that regulate these trolls.
Blasphemy or religious vilification
While blasphemy or religious vilification laws are being removed in the media worldwide, it is still practiced. In Kenya, blasphemy is still exercised in the law, and the offense is penalized with one-year imprisonment (Brown & Sinclair, 2019). The law has not been completely revised to address blasphemy as an offense on the internet; however, it is still practiced in the courts. The law is meant to protect individuals from harm or offense but is outdated in internet policies (Brown & Sinclair, 2019). Different controversies are associated with the law related to colonial laws practiced in the country before independence. The importance is placed on religion rather than freedom of expression.
The internet has been one of the most critical media tools in modern society, and this has not come lightly. Many issues regarding regulation, ethics, and legislation have been at the forefront of discussion. Much needs to be addressed and made clear on the way forward using the internet as media.
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Brown, A. and Sinclair, A., 2019. The politics of hate speech laws. Routledge.
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Lee, T., 2019. The global rise of “fake news” and the threat to democratic elections in the USA. Public Administration and Policy.
Napoli, P.M., 2018. What If More Speech Is No Longer the Solution: First Amendment Theory Meets Fake News and the Filter Bubble. Fed. Comm. LJ, 70, p.55.
Roberts, S.T., 2019. Behind the screen: Content moderation in the shadows of social media. Yale University Press.
Rolph, D., 2019. Recent developments in Australian defamation law. Commercial Law Quarterly: The Journal of the Commercial Law Association of Australia, 33(1), p.3.
Sorial, S., 2017. What does it mean to offend, insult, humiliate and intimidate: Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and the problem of harm. Austl. J. Leg. Phil., 42, p.165.
Swire-Thompson, B. and Lazer, D., 2020. Public health and online misinformation: challenges and recommendations. Annual Review of Public Health, 41, pp.433-451.