Social media's responsibility

THE Twitter-sphere was abuzz this week with reactions to Alan Jones' comments about Julia Gillard's father 'dying of shame'.

The pressure from such an overwhelming social media outpouring prompted some of his advertisers to pull their ads, some regional stations to pull the program from the airwaves and some Labor politicians to announce they will boycott the program altogether.

It was a good example of how social media can reflect a society's views immediately, and when the masses are unhappy, the powers that be are forced to act.

While Mr Jones is used to having a very large soapbox from which to preach his opinions, the idea that everybody can have a pulpit is a relatively new phenomenon. And he was none too happy about some of the comments made about him in cyberspace...

There is no doubt that Jones' comments were cruel and callous, but the vitriol that is often expressed through Faceless-

book is not a good reflection on us as a society either. Trolls crawl out from under their bridges to post all sorts of hateful rubbish.

But just as you can't combat violence with violence, you can't combat vitriol with more vitriol.

Etiquette and laws are still being developed about what is and what is not appropriate to post, whereas the 'old media' (radio, TV and print) are regulated in such a way that organisations are accountable for everything they broadcast or publish.

There is a difference between what you say in the pub to a couple of mates and what you publish online to an unknown audience, and we're still catching up to that idea.

Another example of public outpouring via social media recently was the charging of a man who was arrested in relation to the murder and rape of Jill Meagher who never made it home from a Melbourne nightclub. The digital lynch mob has already found him guilty and the high level of cyber-chatter means that his chances of receiving a fair trial before a jury are now being questioned.

So while the new social media increases our participation in this flawed system we call democracy, a social media etiquette is yet to develop that reflects the responsibility that comes with it.

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