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Social Media - a question of Trust

Jonathan Murphy

Technology & Creativity Blog editor

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Disruption and Deception - What Next for News? was the topic for a lively panel discussion at the Social Media and Broadcasting Conference hosted by the BBC Academy.  Hosted by Nic Newman from the Reuters Institute for Journalism with a panel of industry leads, the debate covered areas such as fake news, click bait, responsible product development, data control and personalisation. 

But of course much of the chat was about the Facebook news story.  Mark Little, CEO & co-founder of NevaLabs, sees this as a watershed moment. "Democracy is being weaponised. There's now an arms race and the forces of darkness are weaponising these social media tools. The good news is that now we're discussing these problems and working on solutions."  

 

The social media panel line-up

There was much debate over the nature and impact of fake news.  Orit Kopel, co-founder of Wikitribune, said it was important to distinguish between deliberate falsehoods and bad journalism. "Misinformation is very rare," she said, born out by a show of hands of few people in the audience who'd recently seen fake news in their social media feeds,  "The main problem is bad journalism.  It's more profitable to have click bait headlines linking through to bad content."

There was also agreement that, overall, social media can be a force for good. BBC News social media editor Mark Frankel remains optimistic despite recent headlines: "It's not in our interest to lose Facebook.  Their recent algorithmic news feed changes could be a big opportunity. Ifi ti's about raising the bar, if it's about trust and respect, that can only be a good story for us."

Mark Little felt that while reforms and controls were needed, the benefits of social media were still enormous,  "Let's not lose the democratic potential of having media that's not owned by gatekeepers, but is instead in our own hands".

And what might be changing over the next couple of years?  Similar problems, just with different platforms, one panellist suggested. For Orit Kopel, the biggest changes would be around user control: "We'll see people reclaiming their privacy and taking more control of their online lives".

You can see highlights of the Social Media and Broadcasting Conference on the BBC Academy website.  

 

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