Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Downsides of UGC and Social Media

Ashley Thomas

There are numerous issues with user generated content and social media online and in my opinion it stems from the anonymity that online content creates. Also with so much user generated content being put out online, and so frequently, online news publications have so much content to choose from. Because of the influx of content and the fast paced world of journalism, these sites need to verify the user generated content quickly.
According to Craig Silverman, publications need to collect "as much information as possible and practicing triangulation to make an informed decision." This technique can come in handy when having to verify photos that may or may not have been altered.

After the Paris bombings, a Spanish newspaper published a photo of a Sikh man wearing a bomb vest and holding a Quran claiming that he was involved with the terrorist attacks. The photo ended up being an altered selfie that a Canadian man had taken with his iPad.

The image on the right is the original while the left one was the
one that was shared and digitally altered (Source).

The newspaper did offer an apology but the backlash that the man received can not be undone. When speaking about the incident, Veerender Jubbal, the man pictured, stated that not only did the image tarnish his image but it also tarnished the image of the Sikh community.

Jubbal also stated that he thinks "it’s easy for those who really want to manipulate things and manipulate events to take advantage of that [digital media] and we need to be very cautious of that."

This relates to what Matthew Ingram speaks in his article about user generated content stating that the true problem with it is "the loss of control it involves." In the article, Ingram discusses the issues that arise when companies, businesses and products are given unfair or illegitimate negative reviews on sites such as Yelp and Amazon.

In fact, Yelp has been hit with class action lawsuits for allegedly extorting money from companies in exchange for good reviews and/or to remove unfavorable ones. If the companies don't oblige their image would suffer from this alleged deal.

This isn't the only instance of companies exchanging money for favorable reviews and it won't be the last as long as people have loose moral and ethical boundaries.

This switch to voicing your opinions online as opposed to word of mouth can be a positive or a negative aspect of all current media industries and all industries in general. For example, posting pictures of a missing loved one online spreads more awareness to people all over the nation as opposed to just hanging up fliers in your neighborhood. Though for newsrooms using social media, Emily Bell states that it now "means that essential journalism practices like archiving information, protecting sources and controlling the process are left in the hands of technology companies."

Because of Facebook interactions on news pages, these publications now have to not only moderate their visitor's interactions but also decide what should be allowed on the page. In my opinion this is a difficult line to walk across because newspapers are all about freedom of the press so it's somewhat hypocritical of them to decide what can and can not be said on their reader postings.

Regardless, social media and user generated content is greatly effecting not only the media industries but companies worldwide and it's their job and our job to adapt to the current state.

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