The starting point of journalism is to be objective, critical, autonomous and progressive. Professional journalism is controlled by national and international laws, and the self-regulation and ethics of journalists.
Through social media, people are daily exposed to a massive amount of media messages, such as news, images and videos. Considering this huge media reach and the possibilities of available modern technologies, it must be recognised that not all media is journalism, self-regulated or even telling the truth. There are also rumours and fabricated information just like in face-to-face interaction. Neither journalists nor citizens should trust any content absolutely, regardless of the source.
Online conversations tend to be polarised
What kind of rules apply online? Can almost anything be said without anyone being held accountable for it?
Online discussion refers to any discussion held online. It can typically happen in internet conversation forums divided into specific topics, in the form of comments under posts or within a certain hashtag or by replying to people with tags, for example on Twitter. News shares and posts on social media provoke online conversations, which often get more publicity than the original posts or news articles.
Social media commentators, of course, are not as a rule restricted by any guidelines, nor do online discussion and feedback forums have journalistic or any other kind of filtering. When adding to this the fact that sometimes people even hide their identity under pseudonyms, it is easy to see why the world of online discussion sometimes seems like the Wild West. From time to time, threatening and bullying messages are brought to light by the media.
News shares and posts on social media provoke online conversations, which often get more publicity than the original posts or news articles.
While not everyone participates in online discussions, those who do are often very loud and use rich expression. In general, then, online conversation can be characterised as polarised, emotional and engaging. Individuals participating often present arguments with no fact-checking and form their opinions fast. In addition, one of the downsides of online conversation is that in social media, especially when the topic is political or controversial, it includes attacks on individuals, or so-called ad hominem argumentation. Despite this, many willingly acknowledge the idea of freedom of speech and even rely on it loudly when making controversial comments online.
Current research concludes that the choice of social media channels affects the flow of information. For example, a study by Boukes (2019) suggests that the use of Twitter as a news source provides access to a wider range of topics and viewpoints, whereas the use of Facebook offers a polarised view: a one-sided selection of news through their network. This creates filter-bubbles where people get a falsified idea of the truth through individualised search results and following conversations that seem suitable to their own opinions.
While not everyone participates in online discussions, those who do are often very loud and use rich expression.
Some communities of different channels and platforms, such as Facebook groups, set their own guidelines and limits to discussion. For a new member, these can come as a surprise. The community may, for example, use a particular language and communication style that can be tricky to learn when entering the discussion.