Monday, November 2, 2015

Stop Posting While You're Ahead: Exercising Discernment in Social Media

Kelli Wanamaker

Journalism programs will all tell you that Twitter is such a great tool for journalists to stay connected to readers; but it's not a great place to discuss sensitive issues such as sexual assault. When Christine Fox Tweeted about the clothing of sexual assault victims she didn't intend to expose herself or these women to an onslaught of online victim-blame. But intended or not, it happened under her watch. Twitter - or any social media in this case - is not a shielded enough environment to discuss a sensitive issue like sexual assault. By shield, I mean the verb to shield, which Oxford dictionaries defines as, "to protect someone or something from a danger, risk, or an unpleasant experience." I would certainly consider being exposed to victim-blame and unwanted notoriety as an unpleasant experience for these survivors.

Some things just don't belong on twitter.
The problem is that commenters on-line are simply out of control. Nasty posters on news sites is the reason for numerous news organizations' choice to field inappropriate or hostile content in the discussion board on their comments section using special algorithms. Many news pages have found that even their precautions are not enough to ward off the bigotry, misogyny, and violent threats of internet trolls, forcing these news pages to shut down their comments section, entirely.

If the comments section of a news page gets a little uncouth, social media is the wild west of commenting. It's the preying grounds for every asshole who wants to humiliate and disrespect others without fear of repercussions. In a society that is plagued with victim-blamers, assaulters, and many more who do not understand the seriousness of sexual assault, I would never Tweet content regarding a sexual assault story. These women trusted Fox with their stories, and when Fox Tweeted their expereinces, she exposed these women, and herself, to the good, the bad, and (mostly) the ugly world of Twitter scum bags… "her feed converted into a rolling, real-time rebuke of victim-blaming," reported Slate writer Amanda Hess. The Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics, under the section to "minimize harm," urges journalists to "show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, and victims of sex crimes." Fox could have used a lot more discretion to protect her subjects.
But the bigger issue here is not Fox's lapse in judgement; but an online environment that targets, humiliates, and blatantly threatens women. Jos Truitt, executive director of Feministring, who has experienced several online threats, shared that "Seemingly all women who dare to speak in public experience personal, gendered attacks online. But many of us have noticed that when commenters who intend to actually engage with someone’s views disagree with a white woman’s writing, they’re more likely to disagree with the substance of her argument — when they disagree with a woman of color they disagree with her as a person." Maybe it's best to just boycott social media all together. Sam Biddle, senior writer at Gawker who, as a female journalist, also coped with Twitter rage directed at her persons, stated, "Twitter is a net negative for journalists or writers of any kind. Even if it’s not getting under your skin, it’s still just noise."

1 comment:

  1. Brittany Oblak

    I definitely agree with many of your points. While I think twitter is great as a PR practitioner, I agree that the public in general just needs to keep their business off the internet. This seems to be more the case with people "oversharing" on Facebook than anything really, but it really just comes down to remembering the golden rule f the new age: once something is put out there, it can never truly be deleted.