A Voice of the Many or the Few?
Can social media decide whose views are actually visible to the wider online community? Twitter has recently come under fire following allegations of “Shadow banning” users, which involves hiding their posts from the rest of the Twittersphere. This claimed act of control was brought to light by conservative activist James O’Keefe who spoke to Twitter employees whilst undercover and recorded them as they revealed that they have ways to ban users or hide their posts without letting them know. This raises the alarm that it may be possible for social media sites to decide whose voice is heard, for example, hiding conservative opinions. It is therefore possible that citizen journalists’ stories could be concealed. If the allegations are proven true, perhaps only certain views will be visible. Do we underestimate the power and potentially manipulative nature of social media sites? And are we just presented with a media bias to prevent public retaliation?
Social Media Clamp Down?
MONDAY NOTE discussed the possibility of Facebook cutting back on the amount of journalism it has on the site. As it has been claimed that Facebook will be “prioritising what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasising content from publishers and brands”. This move is being introduced in order to have “more meaningful social interactions”, but could this be damaging to citizen journalism? MBTM believe that there could be two potential outcomes, either citizens will be more empowered to share news stories online to make up for the lack of professional news stories on users’ feeds or it could lessen the amount of citizen journalism as some users may be unaware of current affairs, especially if they relied upon social media sites to obtain information.
Should Citizens Be Treated the Same as Professionals?
This year Priscilla Villarreal, a citizen journalist was arrested in Laredo, Texas because she published information before police had made an official announcement. This raises the question, should citizen journalists be treated the same as professionals? Members of the public do not undergo the training professionals must do and may not consider ethical issues, so is it fair to punish the public for sharing news ahead of major news outlets?
Moreover, what about rewarding citizen journalists? Would it be enough for a news outlet to simply give credit to an individual who has provided them with material that they have used, giving them their moment of ‘fame’? South Korea’s Ohmynews.com does in fact pay citizens a small sum (usually $2-$20) for their contributions to the site but paying citizen journalists in the US hasn’t quite caught on yet. Perhaps offering a sum of money to the public for their stories would increase the quality of their journalism, or perhaps it would heighten the levels of fake news where people manipulate the truth in order to receive money.
A Look into the Potential Future of Citizen Journalism
The future of citizen journalism remains uncertain. It is clear that social media platforms can control what we see, including news, and if measures are taken to reduce the amount of news we see, citizens may either be empowered or disempowered. In the age of modern technology, anyone can share news online which can be extremely valuable to our understanding of current affairs but issues surrounding ethics could lead to a damaged perception of citizen journalism and if social media sites take extra measures to monitor what information we share, the public may feel less inclined to voice their stories and opinions.