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Ugly side of social media

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With Teri Sequeira:

I would be surprised of any of the readers out there remained unaware and untouched by the brutal terrorist act carried out against worshiping Muslims in New Zealand last week. Over 100 people were shot of which around 60 died.

The worrying thing about this is that the terrorist posted both a manifesto, in advance, justifying his future actions and a sickening live streaming video of the shootings on social media. This recording and edits of it have gone viral with millions of views worldwide, as he fully intended.

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This raises two major concerns – why would normal viewers re-post videos of people being brutally murdered, and what – if anything – did the social network companies do to stop this?

I think, firstly, that we all fully accept that the murder of innocent civilian men, women and children in such a callous way is morally and criminally unacceptable. Secondly, I am sure most social network users would agree that posting images or videos of dead or dying people is degrading to them and their families.

It serves no positive purpose. I personally refuse to view these.

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So, why did this person choose to share this video with the world. This is an example of what is known as “performance crime” – where the criminal seeks to glorify himself and his actions. Often there is a fake political motive behind it. In this case, he published a manifesto explaining his actions and encouraging others to follow his example, in advance. His message appears aimed at racists worldwide. It has at the very least made him recognizable and has glamorised him in some circles. So, sharing his video, no matter how innocently, has supported him in his agenda to spread race hate.

Let us look at how this sort of thing can be allowed to happen. If, for example, a newspaper published a story to its readers showing brutal pictures and hate propaganda. Would they be allowed to get away with it? Simply, no. In the United Kingdom there is the Independent Press Standards Organisation which maintains and monitors press standards and hold individual newspapers to account.

They inves t igat e complaints and ensure the accuracy of published news, as well as the protection of individual rights. They can fine publishers up to GBP1 million if found breaching such standards. Most developed countries have their own similar regulatory authorities.

So, over to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube where the shooting videos have gone viral. Why were they not stopped at source? Although Facebook has declared that they have allocated up to 30,000 people to work on stopping the spread of this, they have not succeeded.

Almost all networks have been caught short and have been unable to stop the viral spread of such negative imagery and hate crime information. Why not – considering they earn billions of US dollars via their services? Serious questions need to be asked of these organisations, and regulation needs to be considered to ensure this does not happen again. This is not the first time, and probably will not be the last. The point here is —would this person have committed these crimes if he had no global audience to share it with? The fear also is that they there may be copycat killings or actions following the viewing of the video and manifesto. The social network organisers must accept culpability in these and start to act more responsibly on this and other social media crimes, such as revenge porn, sexual grooming of minors, and abuse and harassment which in many cases has led to the suicide of the recipient.

Teri Sequeira is Managing Director of SyncIT Solutions Ltd. He can be reached on teris@SyncITAfrica.com or terisequeira@hotmail.com

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