Firstly, by definition, the rise of social media would be illustrated as the trend of people obtaining information not using the traditional fashion such as TV or newspaper, but relying on the digital communication. There are various reasons of why the trend is shifting toward the technology ground. Mainly it is due to the fact that we, the 21-st century people have addressed the internet as part of our lifestyle, that to live without it would be so absurd. In this debate motion, it is important to spot that the main concern of the debate is not on the ground whether social media is bad or not, but rather on why we should regret the trend of people using social media as a primary source of news distribution.
Secondly, a little of characterization. Social media is a digital platform using the power of the internet as a mean of communication, including but not limited to daily conversation, news spreading, raising awareness, commercial purpose a.k.a advertisement, etc. Social media also possess some benefits over the traditional form of communication. For instance, its ability to make things go viral, immediate coverage of an ongoing phenomenon, and best of all, it’s free (LOL!). With those benefits, it is now become common to see the official news station, e.g. BBC/Time/Al Jazeera have also entered the social media realm.
Thirdly, in this debate, we are basically expecting a harm vs. benefit debate.
So, with that given set up, let us proceed.
The most basic question would be why do we have to regret the trend? Well, for starters, it is mainly because the netizen are irrational or incapable in assessing the information feed, which later lead to a bad feedback/response. But, before going further, here’s a simple contemplation. What’s the worst thing to happen on the internet when you do something bad? Unfortunately and ultimately, you will only lose your account. Full stop, literally. Is that a problem enough? Yes, deterrence effect unspotted. Here comes the arguments.
Argument #1: False information/fake news wreaks havoc our society.
The saying ‘you can find everything on the internet’ is indeed true. In producing the online news, the privilege is not only restricted to the official news station, but also involving those whose accountability/credibility/legality/whatever-you-name-it has not yet been achieved. Generally speaking, the reason why the information produced by official news station can be safely consumed is due to the fact that there are protection during the news production. The protection can comes in many forms, such as the journalist’s code of conduct, concrete consequences of making a false information, law enforcement, etc. While on the other hand, the news produced by people outside the official news station, could have just violated some aspects in their news production. Basically to just fulfilling their own interest. Therefore, in order to combat the existence of the fake news, we have to heavily rely on society’s rational capacity.
However, enough with the idealism. Society consists of humans, and humans have the tendency to comfort themselves, including by consuming news that only satisfies their interest. To put it simple, interest comes in many form of preferences, varying from racial/religious issues to political view/ideology preferences. With preferences, comes a preference-bias. What’s worse is that such preference-bias is always equipped with the supporting information/evidence/witness, regardless of the truth. Not to mention that those group of people that consumed the false information could also unite and grow their community under their mutual interest by sharing/liking/retweeting/you-name-it. That’s bad enough, ain’t it?
Argument #2: Social media vigilantism is just uncontrollable.
The internet could destroy the life of one person within a day. With every news spreaded, there will be reactions. The reactions could produce love, enough to make someone’s day, and at the same time, they could also generate anger and hate. When people irrationally exercise their anger on the internet, cyberbullying are expected. Sometimes, it even targets the innocent one, at least in the eye of law. The initiative to blame or humiliate someone because of the absence of justice remains in the gray area. Basically on the internet, what become the issue is not about crime, but rather of what goes against the social norm or a particular view. In addition, a contributing factor to jeopardize the condition is one’s silence/bystander action that implicitly approve one’s initiative action.
For example, when someone tweeted a racist joke, instead of getting laughter from one’s friends, one is easily exposed to the people outside one’s inner circle. That was one of social media feature of getting things viral, and uncontrollable. At first, it may only a person who noticed the racist remark. Then, when another person explicitly pointed it out to one’s friends, a massive anger could easily be achieved. Yes, that racist person deserve to be corrected and socially punished. However, with the existence of the netizen, the degree of punishment could not be controlled. Often, the damage done by the digital mob is more serious that the original intended mean. At first, one’s reputation is harmed. Then, one might lose one’s job. And later, one’s life might even be threatened as if one is a heartless murderer. That poor racist guy does not deserve such punishment right? For the very least, just let our criminal justice system handle the work.
Argument #3: Citizen journalism equipped with anonymity is just bad.
One of the benefits in relying on social media to distribute news is its inclusivity. News or sequence of information could be produced by anyone, regardless of their capacity. At first glance, it is cool because it evokes people’s participation in raising awareness or even being agent of change. However, since there are no filters at all in the idea of participation, it will result in people irresponsibly publish any sort of information that favor their own interest. The clash of information in social media is quite a common thing. But what’s worse is that it barely ends and hardly mitigated.
In addition, the existence of anonymity feature contributes to the never-ending clash of news. Anonymity does provide a sense of protection for the user. However, the problem lies when the user does not practice is for a good purpose. It could be used to create misleading news, bullying people, etc. Anonymity is often associated with freedom of speech. However, there is control in it. The basic parameter of freedom is to the extent of not harming other people. Even though today’s government of the world are able to trace down several people that used anonymity, there are still people out there that is beyond the reach of the law (no witness, no evidence). Put it simply, there is no deterrence effect to actually reduce or even prevent the anonymous people from doing evil things.
Now is our turn to explain why primary news distribution should be done in social media. The other team has just hopelessly expressed their concern over the issue of there are no control and society is unable to filter the information. Yes it is true that the problem exists. But hey, the abundant benefits are also there. How about the benefits on social movement activists that managed to amplify their voice in contributing to a positive cause in social media? How about the benefits of people are getting more aware and educated and also informed? How about the fact that technology is going to surpass the conventional news channel? Those are some benefits that could outweigh the harms.
Argument #1: Social media is the demand of innovation.
In our world, change is inevitable. Innovation is being demanded and expected from the people to have a more efficient and more effective life. In the beginning era of news distribution, we have newspaper, which only consists of texts. Then, innovation come. We now have television, a better way of delivering information, with pictures and sounds. Finally, we are exposed to the internet, which answer the demand of globalization era. Now that we have arrived in the realm of digital society, social media indeed gives more ease in accessing the latest information. Previously, traditional conversation happened with geographical constraints, but now such constraint is gone. Now that social media has become the trend of modern interaction between humans, it has also proven to be effective in delivering messages, for the majority of the world population have accepted the practice.
News distribution in social media is inevitable, for in the social media, not only general people are there, but also includes the legal news producer. The official news station is also adapting to the trend. So, basically there is no difference between news distribution in social media and news distribution in physical form. Both of them were distributed by the same actor, and read by the same people. In fact, with the support of internet, the news could travel intercontinentally, which is terrific in raising greater awareness.
Argument #2: Deterrence effect may not be there, but we have government to resolve the issues.
It is indeed true that in the social media, there are invalid news producer, and status quo today indicates that both the true news and false news are fighting each other endlessly. However, we do not consider that as a problem. Because the social and governmental control is there to accommodate clarification. When a certain issue has become very heated/controversial, third party intervention will be conducted, which is often the government. Government has the capacity and resources to resolve a dispute. Especially, when a certain issue is harming or threatening the society, it becomes the government duty to provide a safe and sound living environment. Thus, government will save us.
Furthermore, the government is not alone in combating the fake news. The fake news is the enemy of mankind. And in combating the mutual enemy, the world is uniting. We can see how the social media company itself, e.g. Facebook has initiated a movement to identify fake news and later shut down the financial incentive for fakers (read more here). With the support from media company and government, along with educating society to identify fake news, it is safe to rely on social media as a primary source of news distribution.
Argument #3: It promotes citizen journalism.
Social media with its inclusivity has given access/chance for everyone to participate to control the stream of information from monopoly. We have to be aware that even the media company has its own interest, particularly when it supports a certain team/view/ideology/preference. And so does government, with its ability to implement a censorship. Basically, citizen journalism plays a role in trying to mitigate the power abuse or information bias. Citizen journalism itself is in line with the transparency value. Having the existence of media company, government, netizens, the social media has become safer.
Citizen journalism is important, for some phenomenons are happening outside the reach of a news hunter. Immediate action is necessary, especially when it could save lives.