I’m not dead.
If you didn’t hear about it this year then where were you, seriously. Eddie Murphy is dead. (No he’s not), yes he is…no really he’s not.
His death was hoaxed and then publicised in all forms of media and it seems lies these days spread like wild-fire, whether or not there’s an ounce of truth is irrelevant, such as was the case of the ‘death’ of Bill Crosby (the first time around) . People don’t care. As soon as there’s a hash-tag before your name word gets around. For every 10 people who say the lie there may be 9 who don’t believe it, but that 1 person who does will tell (if you go by Twitter average followers) another 139 people. Those numbers soon add up. The lie realistically will increasingly spread quicker the more people who are telling it, because the more published it is the more likely people will believe it. Incredibly, if it’s in social media people will believe anything.
Now you see, here is the thing with social media, unlike actual News, it does not need to worry (so much) with the legal pitfalls of libel law, since it is particularly difficult to pin down the person who actually instigated the initial lie, unlike actual press coverage. All it takes is for the initial Twitter account to respond with the #oops #sorry #IwasWrong hash-tags and they’ve probably covered their backs.
There are, apparently, still truths in journalism – though with Fox News it’s difficult to see where. American ‘news’ coverage is, to most, shambolic in its biased, right-wing stance and unrepentant assault on your sense of right and wrong. It is, after all, something Canadians recently batted away from impeding on their own media coverage by maintaining an age-old law relating to lying in the media in order to prevent what they dubbed “Fox News North”. The backlash against biased broadcasting also can be seen in the UK when global giant Sky were essentially told to “back-off” their BSkyB bid for UK press domination as well as social pressure against newspapers in general following several scandals focussed on what the papers coin “public interest”.
It’s a coin that newspapers often metaphorically toss liberally/libelous-ly in the air, flipping between “public interest” and “public scandal” on a daily basis. Journalists (especially those of Broadsheet papers) rely upon the protection provided by Public Interest Disclosure Act (which was designed to protect Whistle-blowers in corporations when they publicly reveal facts that could detrimentally affect their working situation), as well as more general public interest laws and the ‘biggie’, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to publish, what some might call, ‘low-brow or non-newsworthy stories (particularly those earmarked ‘celebrity’) in order to sell papers, particularly using stories relating to sex, drugs and minor indiscretions. On one side of the flipped coin lies the public’s need for ‘truth’ and the freedom of the press from political pressures to reveal it, and on the other side lies the press’ use of small-time public scandals of individuals to sell papers under the thinly-veiled ideal of ‘truth’.
The purpose of disclosures, and those ‘gagging-orders’ against such highly-publicised indiscretions (such as that involving Ryan Giggs) for many are unfortunate bi-products of Freedom of Speech and Free Press laws which taint but not dissolve their original important purpose. There will always be those that intelligently utilise law, and law loopholes to make money, especially within the Press and Media, it would be foolish to think otherwise. Yet it seems today ‘truth’ is more malleable and more quickly tainted through the increasingly expanding and more powerful social media.
It is widely acknowledged that law may be being left behind by the rise of Social Media and has not adapted quickly enough to the changing face of our Press. There are certainly a few who would agree that the (multiple) fiascos relating to Facebook, Zuckerberg, lawsuits, users rights and their lawyers bank-rolls as well as various other media-specific lawsuits and high-profile cases in the last twelve months are substantially reshaping our view on the Right of Publicity, Concerted Activity, Privacy Rules as well as Social Media’s involvement in our schools and our working environment. On a case-by-case basis courts, lawyers and judges are confronting and transforming law to impart sentences on relatively unique cases that are mapping the future of Social Media. Are we ready for the consequences of such speedy transformation of our world’s Media Law and do we yet know the consequences of such limitations upon both the concept of Freedom of Speech and our own Human Rights?