Themes: Media law and Regulation, privacy,
Over the last ten years, social media like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Youtube and blogging have become increasingly popular. These forms of user-generated content are now known as the “New Gatekeepers” (Sithigh, p.87, 2008) because of the huge role they play in our daily interactions. According to Cowling (2011) there are over ten million registered users of Facebook in Australia and 66% of these people use the site daily. Facebook and other social networking media are recognised as the new media, or as Sithigh outlines “the mass age” (Sithigh, p.79, 2008). The role of producers and consumers in this mass age are becoming increasingly unclear and blurred. This crossing over of roles is facilitated by the rise of social journalism. Media like Facebook have led to the democratization of media, community sharing and interconnecting and increased transparency in governments and corporate organizations. The idea of regulating social media is a profound one. In my argument against the regulation of social media, I state the importance of these new media in government and corporate accountability and in particular, the notion that to regulate such media is contradictory to their objective.
Current internet censorship laws in Australia are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which has the power to impose restrictions on content within Australia. A black list that compromises over 10,000 websites is used for overseas websites, which is delivered using filtering software to prevent the content reaching Australia.
Recently, there has been great debate and divide in Australia as to whether tougher regulation and censorship laws should be introduced to cyberspace. In early January 2010, Hillary Clinton alleged that countries with Internet censorship would be breaching the UN’s declaration of human rights because the advantages of the Internet would be under threat. Like Clinton, the US government and its citizens “strongly support their First Amendment right to enjoy freedom of speech” (Murray, p.213, 2007). Since the emergence of the Web2.0 concept, the scope of mass participation and social networking has resulted in “a market place of ideas” (Murray 2007). From almost anywhere in the world, the ability to interact with others and voice opinions is limitless.
Social media outlets like Facebook and blogging domains have not only removed the barriers between countries but also between communities.
Governments and corporations have never been so scrutinised and accountable. The ability to form online communities with the click of a button and relatively low cost have impacted on government behaviour. One example of this was the introduction of political engagement through the internet in the 2007 Australian federal election.
The demise of John Howard’s coalition government in 2007 not only saw a new government in power after 11 years but also a new level of political participation and engagement through cyberspace. This facilitated the rise of citizen journalism as an alternate channel on reporting during the 2007 election.
The ‘YouDecide 2007’, was an online citizen journalism resource used during the Australian federal election. It operated for three months during the election campaign, which promoted online coverage of the election and resulted in a diverse range of citizen journalists uploading content from their particular electorate. Content included print, video, audio and photos.
The popularity of the You Decide project was evident; “it attracted over 12,000 readers a week and throughout the election period it was receiving more traffic than all major political parties sites except the Australian Labor party” (Flew & Wilson, p.15, 2008). The use of this online outlet contributed to promoting greater citizen participation in the Australian political...