Society Meets Social Media: Canaries in the Mineshaft
Legal and regulatory initiatives shaped by moral panics over social media are a microcosm of many general threats to the vitality of a free, open and global Internet. The belief is widespread that social media and related Internet developments are unstoppable and beyond the control of governments and regulators across the world. However, initiatives afoot to address increasingly vocal public support for ‘doing something’ about concerns ranging from cyber-bullying to privacy, are pushing politicians and regulators to bring traditional approaches to media regulation to bear on social media and the Internet. These initiatives are unlikely to accomplish their intended aims but could well undermine the vitality of social media and the larger ecology of the Internet. Several types of response are critical. First, academics and practionners need to come forward with a regulatory model that is purpose built for social media and related applications of the Internet. Secondly, educational efforts need to be prioritized to help children and others learn how to use social media in more ethical, safe and effective ways. Thirdly, social media need to be designed in ways that enable users to hold other users more socially accountable for their actions.
Bio: William H. Dutton is the Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU, where he is Director of the Quello Center. Bill was the first Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford where he was founding director of the Oxford Internet Institute, and a Fellow of Balliol College. He has recently edited the Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies (OUP 2013), four volumes on Politics and the Internet (Routledge 2014), and a reader entitled Society and the Internet, with Mark Graham (OUP 2014).