web analytics

Social Media – A force for good?

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, November 22nd, 2019 - 8 comments
Categories: censorship, facebook, internet, Media, Politics, social media lolz, twitter, uk politics - Tags: , , , , , ,

Originally posted on Nick Kelly’s blog 

There is plenty of criticism about the role that Social Media plays in democracy. There have been plenty of high profile cases such as the Cambridge Analytica where people’s personal data from Facebook had been used without people’s consent. This data was then used by those campaigning for Brexit.

After the horrific terror attacks in New Zealand earlier this year there was considerable criticism about the role social media had played. There have been plenty of other examples of the far right using social media to promote messages of hate and bigotry.

But social media can also be a force for good. I have used Facebook live to film a Wellington Regional Council meeting where they were discussing the future of the regions bus service. The media had failed to show up to this event, and it was this tool which meant drivers and concerned members of the public could be kept informed.

Social media played a significant role in the 2017 UK election. The so-called youth quake where under 30s turned out to vote in much higher numbers than usual, is largely attributed social media campaigns run by Momentum and other campaign groups.

Since living in the UK I have seen how social media plays a vital role. In early 2018 there were large protests in London demanding increases for to NHS funding. The BBC didn’t bother to report on these protests at all. After days of considerable social media footage and posts, US president Donald Trump mentioned the protests in a tweet (where he inaccurately claimed people were protesting against the NHS, when in fact they were demanding more funding). Only after Trumps Tweet did the UKs national broadcaster bother to report that these protests had occurred.

In my previous post I alluded to some of the common complaints and concerns about traditional media. The beauty about social media is that anybody can publish anything. It’s very hard to suppress a story or completely shut down a debate as did often happen in the pre internet age. Conversely though, it does mean anyone can post anything. And it means people can pretend to be someone they are not, or present something in a deliberately misleading way.

During the ITV leaders debate on Tuesday, The UK Conservative Party changed their twitter handle to factcheckUK. This allowed the Conservatives to rebut statements made by Labour, not as the Conservatives but by pretending to be an independent fact checker site. Twitter has condemned this action and warned the Conservatives they will take action if it happens again.

The account description during the debate was 'Fact Checking Labour from CCHQ'
The UK Conservative Party change their twitter handle to factcheckUK during the ITV election debate. Twitter has said the Conservatives mislead the public by doing this. 

Two days later the Conservatives were at it again. They released a fake Labour manifesto page on the same morning that the Labour Party were releasing their manifesto in Birmingham. There has been widespread criticism that the Conservative Party are using digital media to run a misinformation campaign.

A major discussion is happening globally about how much freedom of speech there should be on social media. There are growing calls for social media platforms to monitor their content, and calls for platforms to remove misleading or offensive content. There is  concern that during elections it is too easy to spread misinformation which could then affect the election outcome.

As someone who has used social media platforms to run campaigns or to engage in political discussion and debates, I can see both sides. Misinformation is never a good thing. Social media has at times meant certain voices or perspectives get a hearing that  struggled to do so with traditional media. But that in turn also means certain voices many of us are uncomfortable hearing from, such as the far right, also get a voice.

We should be wary of calls for greater regulation, censorship or general control over what can and can’t be published online. Who do we want policing this? Social media companies like Facebook or Twitter? They are private businesses with their own motives. The government? We can see above a government using online media to spread misinformation – do we really want them being the censors?

Social media offers enormous opportunities to improve our democratic societies, and engage people in debate and discussion in ways that haven’t been possible in the past. But like traditional media, it is far from perfect. In the UK we’ve seen it used to engage young voters and to get news stories out that otherwise wouldn’t have been given airtime. But we also see political organisations using social media deceptively.

Social media platforms are still relatively young, and are still developing as democratic tools. As citizens we should decide what we want our social media to look like. Also to call out and expose those who try to use it for ill or deception.

To support Momentum campaign for a Corbyn led Labour Government in the UK you can give your support here.

8 comments on “Social Media – A force for good? ”

  1. Paaparakauta 1

    All UK Labour have to do is repeatedly ask

    "would you buy a used car from this man ?"

    [Strike Two. There are several moderation notes for you to respond to. See the most recent one here: https://thestandard.org.nz/hypocrite-3/#comment-1668162 – Incognito]

  2. Climaction 2

    I’m sure it can be a force for good, but uk momentum seem to use it for ill, promoting conspiracy theories and formenting anti semitism .

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/25/labour-has-widespread-problem-with-antisemitism-momentum-founder-jon-lansman

  3. Ad 3

    Great and very balanced post, weathered through hard campaign experience.

    I've been thinking about this one ever since Habermas talked about the necessity of speech in a vibrant social democracy.

    I share Bridges' concern about unifying TVNZ and RNZ for exactly the same reason that the Commerce Commission has resisted all attempts to merge NZME with Stuff: we need diverse voices.

    With decreased media voices we are far, far more reliant in political campaigns on social media to get the messages out. Good and bad, there's no turning back .

  4. Ad 4

    And in breaking news, Labor are proposing free internet.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/15/free-broadband-essential-uk-compete-john-mcdonnell-labour-policy-openreach

    Funded through taxes on the likes of Google and Facebook.

    I would love to see that floated here.

    The only way that the internet can be reclaimed as a force for the common good is if it is owned for the common good and distributed as a service-of-right like housing and roads for the common good.

  5. AB 5

    Social media is neither a force for good or a force for bad. It depends on who owns it and how it's used. The problem here seems to be that it's the Tories that are a force for bad – so they use the technology dishonestly.

  6. Incognito 6

    Indeed, the dilemma that is social media and the way it challenges us. As with everything, e.g. natural resources, fossil fuels, nuclear energy, toxic chemicals, it depends on how we use them. Are we aware of intended and unintended consequences, in the short and long term? Do we adjust our behaviour(s) accordingly? Social media are tools but they can also be (deadly) weapons. We need to figure out to wield and use them wisely or at our peril. No different from sex or food.

    Great post, BTW.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago