My eldest daughter lives in a residential college at a University in Sydney. As with most groups of people in their late teens and early twenties, they enjoy themselves. This might involve parties or dancing or maybe even a few drinks. Probably not a lot different to when I was in my late teens. What is dramatically different, though, is who can see what fun you had last night. When I was a teenager, the only recollection of what happened was from the few people you were with. In the modern world we live in, everyone has a camera and, more dangerously, everyone has a video camera. Sure, we call them smartphones, but they are sophisticated cameras with a phone attached. Go a step further, and the latest trend (that Facebook has been pushing heavily) is to not just record a video and post it online but to stream live an event as it is happening. I have seen live streams from a variety of users – including my daughter at her University functions – and it is fair to say that the videos that come through are raw!

In the old days of traditional media, any live broadcast would have a producer and team of people monitoring the feeds and a ten second delay to ensure no slip of a swear word would go to air. Forget about all of that in our modern world. The producer and cameraman and talent are one and the same. It is the same with printed media. Journalists working for major newspapers are trained and understand how to check their sources and scrutinise the information they find and report information in an unbiased manner. Now everyone can post their random thoughts without so much as a fact check or source check.

On one hand this all sounds like we have the ultimate freedom of speech platform. But with the power of our modern platforms comes the ability to use the tools for harm. Facebook yesterday announced that they will employ an additional 3,000 people over the next year to add to the current 4,500 people they have employed as content moderators. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has said that “we’ve seen people hurting themselves and others on Facebook – either live or in video posted later” and he thinks Facebook can do better. Although he doesn’t mention them specifically, he is presumably referring to incidents like the man in Thailand who livestreamed the murder of his infant daughter or the Alabama man who livestreamed his suicide. I am sure Mark Zuckerberg is a nice guy and doesn’t want to see these incidents on Facebook, but I am certain he is also worried about the $73.7 million of daily advertising revenue that Facebook generates. More bad press with no response from Facebook and some advertisers might start to pull their advertising dollars – and then Zuckerberg really would take notice. With 1.95 billion users worldwide there is a real social responsibility that Facebook must accept.

The biggest question though is where they draw the line between freedom of speech and censorship. Zuckerberg said that the “reviewers will also help us get better at removing things we don’t allow on Facebook like hate speech and child exploitation” which sounds quite sensible. Who decides what hate speech is? I think we can all agree on the black and white issues. I don’t know anyone who would think it is acceptable to livestream a murder. But what about cultural differences? What is acceptable in a third world country might be unacceptable in our society. When I post a video of my children working in my business, is that child exploitation? When I say what a great victory Manly had on the weekend over Souths and Rabbitohs supporters say they hate Manly supporters is that a bit of Aussie fun or serious hate speech. I can’t answer any of these questions and I am not sure Facebook can either. I just hope when my daughter livestreams her next great party that the Facebook moderators cut it immediately it as it reminds me of how old I now am!

App of the Week this week is Facebook Lite. This allows you to use Facebook on an older phone or with a slower data connection. It uses less system resources and less data.

Mathew Dickerson

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