Traditional media is no longer serving as the primary news source for our consumption. Social media has taken the place of traditional media. One social media platform, Twitter, has become a prime source of information in today’s society allowing for the spread of information throughout the world at the speed of light. Graphic content distributed through mass media platforms present ethical issues. Twitter being a prime source of news has caused many to question the platform’s responsibility for implementing standards toward the publication of graphic content.
Should social media platforms like Twitter take on the responsibility of removing and/or censoring graphic content? Yes, Twitter should take responsibility for the removal of graphic content but should only do so of its own free will. Twitter should only do so when Twitter’s user generated content (UGC) would cause harm to individuals and their families.
Twitter considered this its responsibility when responding to users regarding the disturbing image of a decapitated photojournalist James Foley appearing in twitter feeds. Twitter began to suspend accounts related to this disturbing image.
When notified of such graphic images, I expect Twitter to remove such content because I would not want to open my feed and see such an image and the family of the photojournalist should be warranted respect. Standards and ethical values are worthy of consideration in such instances. However, I do not believe that Twitter as a commercial enterprise should be expected to adopt ethical standards.
It is unrealistic to expect Twitter to conform to ethical standards when content is user generated. UGC cannot be expected to be fair, honest, or free of obligation to any other interest. One cannot expect the various contributors of content on Twitter to be accountable to their peers or for Twitter to be held accountable either.
So, while I do not expect Twitter to be held accountable for monitoring all content for disturbing graphic images I do expect Twitter to take steps to remove such content when notified. I expect Twitter to take these steps because precedent was already set in the case of the graphic image of James Foley.