Who’s Responsible for What Happens on Social Media? Facebook, Twitter, or You?

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This week, Great Britain’s police force called on social media companies to tighten security measures related to online abuse and harassment. It believes that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter should make it harder for users to commit crimes on their platforms.

The plea came after activist Caroline Criado-Perez received multiple rape threats on Twitter. The incident really blew up when Criado-Perez claimed that Mark Luckie, Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News, blocked her. Her story is that he blocked her once her supporters began campaigning with hashtags like #takebacktwitter and #shoutingback. Luckie, on the other hand, has said that he locked down his account since his job does not involve dealing with abusive scenarios.

As a result of these developments, an online petition was created on Change.org asking Twitter to incorporate a button to report abuse on each tweet. The petition received more than 62,000 signatures on its first day of being public and is currently sitting at more than 100,000.

Twitter responded to the petition and said it had actually just rolled out a button that allows users to easily report abuse from each individual tweet. The feature is already included on the micrblogging service’s iPhone app and mobile website. Users can also report abuse on Twitter’s website. The company says that it plans to bring this functionality to desktop and Android users as well.

What’s interesting about this incident is the bigger issue it raises regarding the responsibility of both users and social networks. Although every situation is different, the underlying dispute is where the obligation of the social network and the accountability of users intersect.

Is there a line, or is it still blurred? What do you think?

We have all seen circumstances in which blame could be placed on either side, but there are others that aren’t as clear. Cyber bullying is one such issue that has received a lot of hype of late as the whole subject of bullying has seemingly increased. Can these actions be regulated online though? According to an ongoing survey on Debate.org, 61 percent of participants say social networks should do more to prevent cyber bullying while 39 percent do not believe the responsibility falls on them.

No one wants to see bad things happen on a social network, or anywhere for that matter. But, is the social platform actually enabling the bad to happen, or is it just the tool that is being used to perform the act? A recent study from FindLaw reported that 1 in 4 young people have regrets about what they have posted on social media sites. While most of the respondents to this survey expressed concern about a current or potential employer, the bottom line is that people often act and react without thinking, regardless of what any given social network may do.

On the flip side, should social networks create secure privacy settings and controls that users can utilize to their advantage? Absolutely. They should always be working toward improvement in this regard. But, if users, which also include brands, ignore them, it’s not their fault.

The point of this post, however, is not to in ANY way discredit the aforementioned victim of rape threats. The issue simply leads to a much broader conversation that we’ve only barely hit on.

The business side of this discussion opens up an even bigger can of worms as a wrong move could result in severe repercussions for a brand. Also, the brand aspect on many of these social platforms is still relatively new, which means that there is a lot of trial and error techniques taking place.

Still, what does all this mean? What more can social networks do to prevent these incidents from happening? What tools do users need to be equipped with, or do they just need to be better educated on these issues? Let the conversation begin.

Abby Johnson

Abby brings a unique perspective to the mix because her background consists of both traditional broadcast and public relations to now the world of online. She is very skilled at looking at the big picture and understanding how to get the message across to a particular audience.

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