Richard Lutz, for 35 years a tv and print journalist, is worried about how social media is poisoning free speech.
A famous judge said- famously- you have the right to free speech but don’t have the right to shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded film theatre.
A media commentator said bad journalism is like giving a 3 year old a loaded semi automatic: ultimate power without any responsibility.
Social media and the fetishism of instant quasi-news, whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or whatever comes next, is highlighting just how potentially dangerous these sites are. The Lord McAlpine case, now slapped on our front pages and on our Ipads, is indicative of this rampant vitiating problem.
Of course, it is not the technology itself that is to blame. But the people who mis-use it. And mis-use it, they do.
Users of these sites wrongly believe they are outside of the law by putting out half truths, demented gossip or libel. They have high velocity power in their grasp. But no responsibility. They believe writing something on their pages is simply OK..good..more information about what they believe is true or how they perceive the world around them. Many do not understand how the rule of law works in protecting privacy or they may have a simple grasp of it but simply do not care.
The damage caused by this ignorance or irresponsibility is irrevocably damaging to their targets. It ruins lives.
If we can forget the BBC problems for a second in running a paedaphile story without naming the Tory politician allegedly involved, we should look at what possibly spurred Newsnight programme-makers into running the piece.
It was on Twitter…therefore had worth. Traditional media organisations, such as papers and tv, are frightened to death of social media. Because they know it is fast, because they know it is of dubious origin and because they know most people believe what is on their screen or their mobile.
Lord McAlpine, innocent of these outrageous crimes he did not commit,will sue. But he will carry the burden of being illegally, wrongly and unprofessionally identified by morons who think social media does not come within the law. He has been shot up by the metaphoric 3 year old with the semi automatic.
I am afraid that the world of Twitter and Facebook will change how we process information and news. We will be run by e-vigilantes and kangaroo courts. ‘If it’s on the web, it is true.’ will be the rule of law.
And that’s dangerous.