Studies covering the significance of social media undertaken in the past illustrate how these platforms have been used to pass gossip and false news. In different ways, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are very active in spreading rumors but in this post- truth era, the proliferation of gossip and false news is mainly furthered by other media outlets especially involving journalists and the press. Post- truth has been illustrated as a period where the opinions of people are influenced more by their personal beliefs and emotions than objective facts. Facts supported by data do not matter anymore than what people believe from what is being said by politicians, journalists, and other prominent individuals. Mass media has been hugely used to influence the public opinion. This paper illustrates the fact that social media is not inherently problematic because it does not further the "post-truth" proliferation of false news and gossip any more than other media.
Social Networking and Ethics
The first decade of 21st century experienced changes in media technologies where social media platforms such as MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook started to transform the informational, social, and political practices in the world. Most people have maintained a significantly social ethical bond on these social media platforms as opposed to what many researchers have portrayed. Some people argue that the social media is being used for propagating hate and influencing the public politically. The point is valid to some extent, but its level cannot be compared to the role played by journalists and mass media such as the newspapers and TV adverts (Vallor, 2016). Most people will distance themselves from posting rumors or false news on the social media since they know their employers, their friends, or their families are seeing anything that they post online.
The bonds that exist between different people are important in maintaining ethical values in the society. Examples of such relationships include; parent-to-parent, friend-to-friend, employee-to-employer, student-to-teacher, seller-to-buyer, patient-to-doctor, neighbor-to-neighbor, and colleague-to-colleague. Such relationships between different people encourage the use of the social media platforms in an ethical manner so as not to affect the relationship between the parties. For instance, most employers in the contemporary world are researching on online activities of potential employees to determine whether they are eligible for the available vacancy. Unlike other media outlets, such factors as the bonds that exist between people are helpful in limiting the use of social media to communicate rumors and false news (Vallor, 2016).
Online social factors that are currently present are designed for ease and pleasure and are aimed at reducing ethical problems though in some ways the platforms are still deficient of moral values. One cannot fail to recognize that most people are using the online media for far more important things such as research and networking rather than participating in post-truth politics. Many groups have been formed that are meant for motivation, buying and selling of products, freelancing, exchanging ideas, and learning etc. when such features are compared to what the mass media is doing then it is correct to conclude that the media outlets are more focused on matters that will capture the attention of the public rather than educate the people (Vallor, 2016). The number of TV and newspapers programs meant for educating the public has decreased over the recent times. News reporters are focusing on political news such as corruption scandals and conspiracy theories which they know will sell more than presenting programs that will pass more knowledge to the public and allow the exchange of ideas.
Political activists have in the past argued in the ways through which the media conglomerates have failed to prevent the infringement of freedom of speech. Therefore, it can be debated that even activists focus on politics more than other factors such as learning. Media companies are not supposed to air entertainment programs that are offensive, but when it comes to matters of politics, there are no limits. For instance, the press goes to the extent of offending a particular section of people by creating forums for political discussions which do not interest everyone. The programs mostly feature political movements and activities currently being experienced in the country, and some of the questions being asked by journalist may propagate division and hatred among people (Stoll, 2006).The social media is different as it promotes representation of various opinions of the people.
On the contrary, the press focuses on programs that are introduced with one sole aim of making profits, and thus they disregard their civic and moral duty to the public. Additionally, the press fails to present equal opportunities for speech and only allow the most powerful individual who will fetch them more profits from views. Social media platforms allow for freedom of expression where anyone with an account is free to speak their mind. Though there are instances where online comments are centered towards political stands, the level at which such comments reach the public is not as high as when the press covers political matters during news and other programs. State news fetches more profits for media companies since they have more views and responses (Stoll, 2006). Ethically, the press has failed the public in many fronts such as those instances where they air or write comments that promote racism, hatred, and tribal boundaries which had been made by greedy politicians. The key to achieving moral responsibilities on political concerns is through the introduction of policies that do not allow the press to air such comments which would promote racism among other communal vices.
In his book, ‘In What to Believe Now", Coady uses epistemology to illustrate relevant topics such as conspiracy, democracy, rumors, and blogosphere. He further explains the different sources of information that have political implications in our lives today. In the book, gossips are defined as unofficial communications spread to the public mostly by the press. For instance, the media is always quick to communicate conspiracy theories even without reliable evidence. Journalists, though professionals, use techniques that are against the law to acquire information that they air to the people. Journalists form a group of professional employees who will go any heights possible to gather information that makes them get recognition from their bosses. Laws protect journalists who give them the courage to report anything no matter how it may damage the public image of some prominent individuals. When compared to people posting comments on social media platforms, journalists have reduced chances of getting arrested for any news they report (Coady, 2012). The result has been increased coverage on political matters by the press more than it is seen in the social media.
Rumors have become a source of information for most that are ignorant to research more. The media can create a story which has no credible source, and some people will believe the rumor because they believe most of the things reported by the press. The most common gossips that are believed by individuals include those involving politicians and political coalitions. Though most of the speculations by the media turn up to be correct, most of the information is gathered in ways that the society does not accept. The journalists participate in unethical practices such as bribery to acquire information concerning politics (Coady, 2012). The conspiracy theories also have become common and are mostly spread by the media. Therefore, people should not entirely believe them since the press do not accompany the theories with credible evidence that supports the theories. Some may argue that social media is more influential than the press, but the fact remains that the mass media plays a huge role in post- truth politics. In any case, the information made available on social media platforms originates from the press. One may also not fail to note that most of the online bloggers and other active participants in posting online comments are journalists.
Phishing is described as a type of social engineering where an attacker tries to acquire sensitive information fraudulently through impersonating another person who is trusted by the victim. Phishers may pretend to be a bank and always have information about the victim that makes them believe and give out data that the Phisher is seeking. Other Phishers pretend to love the victim and end up getting information about the victim's private life (Jagatic et al, 2007). The data gathered then appears in the news or online. Some journalists use this kind of technique to acquire sensitive information about other people which they end up reporting on the news or sell to other interested parties. There are those reporters who will pretend to be in other types of professional occupation and will approach politicians, befriend them, and in the process extract vital information which they later release to the press without the consent of the victim. It is ethically wrong to gather information through such means, and this shows how the media and journalists communicate sensitive information that may be problematic to the people. The media delivers false news, and rumors more than the social media and those comments found online mostly originate from media personalities and the press (Jagatic et al, 2007).
In summary, social media platforms are different from the press in a variety of ways and the two influences the public opinions differently. The press is the most active when it comes to communicating rumors and false news as compared to social media platforms such as Facebook Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace, etc. the press is more concerned on profit maximization and thus will report on anything no matter the outcome. Journalists are always interested in covering stories that capture the attention of the public the reason why they report on political conspiracies most. Some of the information that the journalist's’ reports are sensitive and may affect the peaceful coexistence as they perpetuate hatred through racism and gender discrimination. Additionally, the news reporters use unethical means such social phishing to gather the information.
Coady, D. (2012). What to believe now: Applying epistemology to contemporary issues. John Wiley & Sons.
Jagatic, T. N., Johnson, N. A., Jakobsson, M., & Menczer, F. (2007). Social phishing. Communications of the ACM, 50(10), 94-100.
Stoll, M. L. (2006). Infotainment and the moral obligations of the multimedia conglomerate. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(2-3), 253-260.
Vallor, S., (2016). ‘Social Networking and Ethics’. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
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