I’m likely to be web walloped for this, but the way I feel inside, I’d be a coward if I didn’t share my thoughts.
I’m deeply concerned about where we’re all going with the Wild West of the Web and trial by social media.
Our judicial system needs an overhaul and I can understand frustration over low reportage, support for victims, and poor sentencing. But this system has been developed with the aim of protecting all sides, and reaching a fair and balanced decision. This system can be repaired, improved and perfected.
But you can’t expect any such restraint or balance from the lynch mobs currently running rampant online.
Who decides who is guilty of an offence and why, and who decides the severity of the sentence? Is a lost career, a lost life, the only appropriate justice?
And what about a right of reply? Any voice not taking the popular line in the social stream is lost in the shouting. In fact any contribution to the argument is merely propagating the storm and fomenting the fury.
We’re no stranger to trial by media, which has had its fair share of criticism in the past. But at least in a licensed broadcast or publication, there is a chance of a reasoned argument, a right to reply, a space for apology, and some rules regarding ethics and accuracy.
Trial by SOCIAL MEDIA is a blunt instrument with no rules, guidelines, safeguards or protections.
What happens when the angry stream gets it wrong? What happens when it ruins a life, creates a tragedy, drives someone to the edge, and beyond?
Who gets to say sorry?
Who gets to repair the damage?
Who gets to take responsibility?
Who is accountable?
The web is a wonderful thing with countless wonderful uses. Internet lynch mobs are not among them. I’m deeply worried about how we can tame the Wild West of the Web.
I don’t have a solution, but a deepening sense of injustice, concern and dismay.
I think, at least for the moment, we’ve lost our way.