SA to combat social media racism

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Facebook and Twitter are two of the most commonly-used social media websites

Government plans to eradicate racist posts on social media

Government condemns the alarming increase of racist posts on Twitter and Facebook, which deliberately undermines the progress made towards social cohesion, nation-building and strengthening democracy.

With social tensions at its proverbial peak in light of a recent altercation inside a restaurant, many citizens took to their social media accounts to voice their displeasure which leaves the floor open for racism to get involved. As we all know, it only takes one comment or post to get the ball rolling. Acting GCIS Director General, Donald Liphoko, said, “It is unfortunate that such comments follow hot on the heels of the country commemorating Human Rights Day.

Nowhere to hide on social media

Liphoko continued, “Government will actively pursue offenders through all available mechanisms including confronting employers and will not allow incidents of racism to define us as a country. What we do in defense of our country today will define who we are as a country in the future. Those found guilty of racist utterances and acts must face the consequences of their actions. ”

Penny Sparrow, is a name that is not unfamiliar with racism nor social media. The disgraced Sparrow caught everyone’s attention after she had openly labelled black people as “monkeys” on her Facebook page. She was subsequently fined R5000 and claims to have been “stating the facts”.

There have been many more cases regarding the racist narrative where offenders have been charged, albeit rather leniently, and required offenders to undergo racism rehabilitation. Racism is a serious problem not only in our country but on a global scale and as such the public has been encouraged to become more active in counteracting racism, within the confines of the law.

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Image courtesy of SABC

Public must play their part

President Jacob Zuma described racism as “one of the most despicable human rights violations” and called for the nation to unite in order to rid ourselves of the problem. Racism is a direct violation of the Constitutional Rights of each South African. Victims of racism can open a case at any local police station, or through the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Equality Courts.

President Jacob Zuma, “the ideology of racism remains firmly entrenched among some in our population, and it represents one of the most despicable human rights violations.”

The Department of Justice is finalizing the National Action Plan against Racism and Related Intolerances which will strengthen the fight against racism and related intolerances. Ultimately, government will look to prevent the occurrence of such crimes through the passing of the Bill as it will criminalize hate crimes and hate speech.

Related:

South Africans urged to use social media to combat racism

Rise of social media complicates efforts to fight racism: SAHRC

Racism needs a Madiba moment

 

Fast or First? Being right or being first in Social Media reporting

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We have all read a badly written article or column in a tabloid, newspaper or online publication that has left us scratching our heads asking the question, “How was this even published?” In today’s society, everything revolves around the latest trend or being the first to spark off a trend and much is the same with news and its reporting.

Journalists are starting to pop up left, right and centre with social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few. These platforms have given journalists a more effective and interactive way of reaching their audiences and followers but has also given rise to the existence of “overnight journalists”.

The aforementioned platforms give voices to individuals who are not necessarily trained or equipped with being journalists and reporters but hey, they have a live feed and a working internet connection so why not? Social media allows the broader public to stay in the know and be informed about breaking news and the latest trends but some of its users get ahead of themselves and that they now qualify as journalists because “it’s easy to put words on a page” – which is not the case! I am in no way trying to imply that social media users shouldn’t have their say but rather leave the reporting to actual, trained journalists.

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Another issue that has reared its ugly head within the realms of social media is ‘clickbait’. These are stories that have been created and published with the sole purpose of attracting a reader’s attention, luring them to a specific web page and generating a large number of readers through the use of either catchy or intriguing headlines. Sound familiar? These are stories or so called “reports” that are not likely to be published further than these online websites and are circulated via social media which essentially serves as spam.

Clickbait stories generally contain numerous amounts of grammatical and spelling errors whilst containing fabricated “truths” with an inconclusive conclusion. By having a brief read of these stories these errors would be easy to spot much like when dealing with social media accounts who claim to be ‘in the know’ (ITK). Often we find a great deal of fault in the manner in which these accounts engage with their audiences as well as the structure of their updates.

Granted, a journalist as well as media houses make mistakes from time to time but with these self-proclaimed ITK sources and ‘social media journalists’ the focus is all about being the first to break the news – and they like to remind you by using phrases like, “You heard it here first” or “EXCLUSIVE”. It is one thing to advertise and promote your brand (or yourself) but social media journalists tend to oversell which removes a bit of their credibility, or lack thereof.

Social media journalists and clickbait aside, what frustrates me about the idea of faster being smarter is how careless people can be when trying to get their messages across. Well known, accredited journalists tend to lose the plot over the speed at which they deliver their stories and updates via social media. The slightest misspelling could lead to the reading of a story being completely different and ultimately a retraction. Not a good look for the journalist or their publication.

Gone are the days of traditional news where we would have to wait for the prime time news bulletin or tomorrow’s newspaper but with that era of news reporting came the guarantee of a top quality, polished news product. This unfortunately is not always the case when dealing with social media reporting as a whole.

With this new era of journalism and news reporting, professionally trained journalists (and aspiring journalists) need to adopt certain ethical approaches to ensure that they always deliver on their basic job description – telling the news. As a journalist, you need to make sure that you inform your readers, listeners or viewers first and foremost. Obviously there are deadlines that need to be met but that does not mean that you have to be careless in and with your work.

The question of ‘fast or first’ is an ethical one that can be unravelled when considering the ‘Golden Mean’ ethical issue. “It is suggested that journalists take a lesson from Aristotle, who argued for practical experience and theoretical substance. Aristotle’s “moral mean”; is recommended as a moral compass that will serve journalists who seek to be virtuous and avoid both defective and excessive practices.” It is a simple one in actuality, rather take the time to do the job well or don’t do it at all – leave it to the real journalists.

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There is however, an ethical approach that helps social media reporters justify their actions and mistakes and this is known as the ‘Categorical Imperative’. This ethical approach looks at and deals with evaluating motivations for one’s actions. A lazy reporter would rather try to justify his/her laziness than account for it, take it on the chin and ensure that it does not happen again.

It is the finer details that come with the territory of being a journalist that help distinguish between an “overnight journalist” and a professionally trained journalist. These intricate ethical questions and approaches are more likely to be consulted and evaluated by a good, professional journalist as opposed to the ‘lazier’ social media reporter. In conclusion, the end products of the two will inevitably end up in the same cyber sphere but the quality of the content is where the reader will see the difference between the question of ‘fast or first’.

 

News Agencies Take A Stand Against ‘Open Journalism’

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User-generated content (UGC) has become an integral part of online spaces and the current field of journalism. Social media platforms and various other websites alike enable the public to have their say on matters through available comment boxes on their respective pages.

While it is always useful to have feedback from fellow readers and users, the ability to post comments on sensitive issues allow people to air their opinions and thoughts. As we know, thoughts and opinions have the potential to be somewhat biased which can create very combustible environments, even on virtual spaces.

With UGC’s enabling users to submit the likes of comments, photographs, videos and other forms of recordings, the potential for ‘open journalism’ is created. What this entails is very similar, almost identical to citizen-journalism whereby everyday ordinary citizens who are closest to ‘the news’ are able to capture and report the news (as is the case on social media). A proverbial news publishing ‘free-for-all’ environment would then be created, slightly chaotic if you ask me.

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At first glance one would think, “That’s not so bad. People are allowed to have their say”, however the issue of credibility begins to surface. After all, what is news without credibility?

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Comments between users available on these platforms can prove to be problematic at times where a few users disagree on a specific matter and things spiral out of control. We have all seen it happen online before, whether it’s between two celebrities on Twitter or two Facebook friends. The website owners, in turn can be held responsible for publishing the comments of their users which is a whole other issue on its own.

Apart from the possible negativity between users, there is the possibility of abuse toward the news agencies and the article writers themselves. Much like celebrities have to endure abuse on their social media pages, so too do some journalists and news agencies. In some cases, [open] ‘journalists’ blatantly abuse the writer without even commenting on the article on hand which has left plenty of writers infuriated and “traumatized”.

News agencies aren’t helpless to the defamatory comments made by online users as certain websites have set a limit on the amount of characters that can be used in a comment. Alternatively, some news agencies clearly specify that any new information in terms of multimedia be shared and that irrelevant content will not be used. http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/08/user-generated-content-can-traumatize-journalists-who-work-with-it-a-new-project-aims-to-help/

What this means is that the potential for ‘open journalism’ is limited but within understandable reason as some individuals abuse the tools and privileges that they are provided with. The growth of the concept of ‘open journalism’ is indeed inhibited but is a ‘necessary evil’ if will as people are still able to comment, just not as vividly as they would like.