Rules and Ethics Typically Applicable to Mass Media Don’t Necessarily Spread Over to Social Media

Updated: Jun 16

The answer to Social Media Misconception rests within the Semantics


Originally Published by Illumination Curated on Medium



Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Chronology of mass media is not a modern-day practice. The concept of taking the message across a group of people reaches back into the pre-industrial age as a public service. The mass media intends to serve all community members. In some countries, it is provided by the government to people living within its authority either through direct public-backed funding or by financing the provision of services. Therefore, mass media practice is traced back to when acts were performed in various ancient cultures, as first noted within the printed Chinese book, the “Diamond Sutra” in 868 AD. The book describes the action when a “movable clay type” was invented in 1041 in China. It is being accepted that because of the sluggish education spread among the people in China and the comparatively high cost of paper there, the earliest printed mass-medium was the famous European prints from about the 1400s.

Today, mass media refers to any media technologies that scope a large audience employing mass communication. It merely pertains to a variety of outlets. However, they all share one thing in common, actively swaying the message to a passive audience member who may or may not be in search of what is happening in their sphere.

Parallel to the chronology of the public media development and the technological advancement in the space, further branches of how the message is taken. That includes various chapters of communicating information under the umbrella of journalism as an academic profession, e.g., Interpretive Journalism, Investigative journalism, Watchdog journalism, Online journalism, Broadcast journalism, Opinion journalism, etc. Naturally, all intend to overcome one all-time mass media challenge, that is “fake news propaganda.” But the question is: are they genuinely succeeding in their mission? Or is there a quality news paradox?

The answer to these questions is not the topic of our current discussion; nonetheless, it serves as the epitome of the favorably shifting semantic nature of what a quality mass media should entail. That is also valid for social media since many people equate social media to mass media and vice versa.

The significance of Active versus a Passive Audience in the Realm of Communications

Even where public services such as mass media are neither publicly provided nor publicly financed, for socio-political reasons, they are usually subject to regulation, which is beyond its applicability to most other economic sectors. That is merely based on the notion of establishing an equal opportunity for everyone to express and perceive information without prejudice; not necessarily who thinks what is a piece of correct information or no, but mainly because if it is the prevailing opinion, whether it makes sense or not!

But with the ever-sweeping development in communication instruments, more and more public are becoming active participants of the more variety and vaster public squares than passive audiences of traditional mass media. The catalyst of such a comprehensive course is the digitalization of mass media first, then taking it into the “World Wide Web.”

Indeed, we have travelled a long road in a relatively short period, where the conveyance of information and exchange of ideas is as easy as a click of a keyboard. We have not established a system of checks and balances that would not unilaterally empower a group or entity over the rest of society’s souls.

With ever-increasing active participants of “information generators,” the passive state of an audience is becoming more than ever ambiguous to our societies, as the more active strategically and “technologically endowed” takes over the control of the passive audience.

Social media is one of the said endowed!

Indeed, our societies are suffocating in the vacuum of controlled active participation and encouraging individual submission. That seems to ensure our culture progressively takes over by political radicalization, Crony capitalism, Corporatism, and corporate greed. Once again, the Semantics of mass and social media need further elaboration before we truly grasp modern public broadcasting’s core stutters.

Public Broadcasting, Social Media and Media Ethics Ethics of social media deals with explicit ethical principles. It meddles with standards, including broadcast media, film, theatre, the arts, print media, and the Internet. It virtually defines and deals with ethical questions about how the media should use the citizens’ texts and pictures.

Social media utilizes virtual interactive digitally-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation, sharing, and exchange of information. Such information may pertain to anything from ideas, interests, and other idiom forms conveyed through virtual communities and networks.

Today, there are clear and growing challenges to the definition of social media. However, almost all Social media share one common denominator: they are all nothing but interactive Internet-based applications where Users actively generate content such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions offered by an intermediary. And that intermediary is often a private entity.

Traditionally, before social media evolution, public information was primarily dissipated through Public broadcasting via radio, TV, and other electronic media channels whose principal purpose was a public amenity. Therefore, to maintain fair and unbiased Public access to information (at least theoretically!) in many countries worldwide, funding came from governments, primarily via annual fees charged on receivers. The aforementioned is still valid today across the globe. Some governments often take their privilege to the next level by censoring the given information based on what they deem fit for their societies. In the United States, public broadcasters may receive some funding from both federal and state sources, but frequently most of their financial support comes from foundations and business underwriters, including corporations. They may also receive contributions from selected audiences; furthermore, a great bulk operates as private, not-for-profit corporations. Nevertheless, they are also supposed to be bound by specific ethical and constitutional standards and respect free speech and information freedom, which is a matter of open controversy.

The argument surrounding free speech becomes even more delicate when we apply ethics and legality to social media. As mentioned earlier, social media is an active participation platform for the forum participants, just like attending a group discussion with a designated host and venue. However, that venue may not be devoid of limitations, as it is meant to be private property.

Any limits and platform restrictions would be offered to the audience before the schedule, the entity’s overall mission, and clear expectations in the real-world. Nonetheless, we can hardly assume that is the case in the modern social media environment because modern social media’s utter mission is solely focused on business, data mining, and consumer satisfaction. Although their mission may endorse free speech under the notion of data validation, their strategies are sole to monetize public information.