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BURRISS: Social media users are still responsible for actions

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One of the hallmarks of the American system of media is called the “social responsibility theory,” which says you can publish what you want without government interference, but you have to face the consequences of your actions.

Put on perhaps more crass terms, we tell our student journalists, “You want to play with the big kids, then you have to be treated like a big kid,” which means taking responsibility for what you publish.

As we all know, users of social media are often vitriolic, are prone to publish unsubstantiated statements and rumors, and much too often seem more interested in saying negative things about other users, rather than engaging in actual dialogue.

But now, in an interesting twist, an Occupy Wall Street protestor is challenging a court decision that ordered Twitter to turn his postings over to a New York prosecutor.

He is apparently arguing he retains possession and control of his tweets, and thus prosecutors should try to get the material from him, rather than from his service provider.

Of course, we know he will not turn the material over without a fight, so his challenge is simply a stalling technique.

Previous court cases have said Internet service providers are much like a bookstore, in that they are generally not responsible for the content of material on their site.

But at the same time, many social network sites claim they can do with the content whatever they want.

Then there is the question of whether routine bloggers can somehow claim to be journalists, and thus have First Amendment protections for what the publish.

We’ve often said here the law has a hard time keeping up with technology.

And ever since e-mail and the Internet were developed users, providers and the government have been in constant turmoil trying to sort it all out.
Tagged under  Journalism, Media History, Occupy Wall Street, Politics, Technology

Members Opinions:
October 21, 2012 at 9:35am
Interesting. Some newspapers print online comments verbatim, while others try to edit comments.When it comes to Journalism the term "responsible" becomes a matter of opinion. That is why there is a constant battle between the media and authorities (law etc.) about what the public needs to and/or has the right to know. I think that taking responsibility for "what you publish" becomes so much BS when a reporter refuses to identify a "source" and will face prosecution rather than to do so. For the most part "social networking" is just a term for "gossip" and should be treated as such. I believe that there are laws defining (slander) as oppossed to (malicious) and whoever publishes, be it news media or social media, share the same risk in taking responsibility for what they publish.

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