In a socially connected world, honesty is everything

Recently, @fatboyzim told me to “stop being so anal” and to not preach “like old media”. It was regarding a discussion concerning the changing of somebody else’s Tweet. The change altered the orginal meaning and the author (Mike Butcher of Tech Crunch) had an issue with it.

It led to a brief round table of opinions about clarity and it was resolved easily as you might expect.

But Simon (@fatboyzim) was right to ask that I not preach “like old media”.

Because when it comes to social media, I believe the standards should be even higher.

In print (or in “old media” in general), misrepresentation is easily caught and (relatively) easily rectified. Watchdogs such as the Press Complaints Commission or Advertising Standards Agency keep an eye on things and newspapers are held to account when they alter meaning. Nobody would defend the right of a company to change a film review from “This film is not great” to “This film is great”.

At least, I’d hope not.

So I had to have a think when the following tweet:

While LoveFilm mulls a sale, it signs another movie house for streaming service by @mikebutcher

was changed to:

RT @TCEurope LoveFilm mulls a sale and still doesn’t make money? by @mikebutcher

The change forced an opinion on the author that wasn’t in the story. In the fast moving world of Twitter where we don’t always follow links to get the full story, this can be a problem. At a glance it seems that the author (Mike) is judging LoveFilm. That could affect things for him and it certainly influences the reader.

As social media becomes ever quicker it becomes more shallow. It has a tendency to amplify the sound bite culture of old media in ways that are harder to regulate. Indeed, the beauty of Twitter is that it isn’t regulated but that doesn’t mean personal responsibility goes out of the window.

If we are taking on the role of citizen journalists then we have a duty to take that role seriously. Shaping the news is a wonderful thing, re-shaping the opinions of others is whole different thing.