Soapbox: publisher's perspective |

All media are responsible for their content

Soapbox: Publisher's Perspective | 1 August 2020

We in Indonesia are very keen on social media. Some people’s lives revolve around it. Many more are dedicated to exploiting it for commercial gain. But there is a downside: it is totally open to abuse leading to trauma, depression, FOMO, and the ever-present fake news that blights our lives and misguides our decision making.

The recent debate over whether social media platforms are responsible for the content that appears on them is nonsense to me. If you are providing space for people to broadcast their messages, and you are profiting from that service, then you are responsible. All this ‘we’ll do our best’ to filter and eliminate hateful, racist, incendiary, sexist, terrorist postings is totally wrong. You are responsible and you have to be accountable. Full stop.

The digital behemoths of the age are rich beyond the imagination, fueled by clever and technologically brilliant innovations. But their responsibility is exactly the same as the editor of a school newspaper who cannot - under any circumstances – allow pornography, hate speech or racism in their stories. That is so obvious. Why is it different when you multiply it by one billion? It’s the same but a billion times more important.

Everything we do in the media has to be predicated on the lowest common denominator. I, as the publisher of this magazine, know that it could be read by minors, teenage girls, overweight youths, fanatic religious believers and many more, sensitive - and some might say - over-sensitive people, and I simply cannot put anything in here to offend or upset them. But the social media moguls are handing blank pieces of paper to raging lunatics, perverts, scam mongers, homophobes, racists, war mongers, anti-abortionists, fanatical, feminists, transphobic and pro-trans people, and seem to be saying, “Hey, I don’t care what you write, I will make sure it could be read by one billion people.”

Now what that means - sorry social media barons – is that you will have to become properly curated as the rest of us are, and have to apply the highest standards to every single piece of content you publish. Because you are the publisher, it is not a ‘hands off, not my fault’ situation. You created your platforms, profited mightily by it, and now, like us, you have to take responsibility even if it means reducing your reach, increasing your costs, doing more work for less pay. Join the rest of us and stand accountable!

If you see a bully threatening someone in a bar, a mall or a school playground and walk away, you’re responsible. If you own that bar, that mall or that school, you are liable. That’s where you are, guys, you own the space. Accept it and start sorting it out, before the whole world is totally corrupted by your inaction!