Kate Hawkesby: Christchurch attack highlights dangers of social media

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 19 March 2019, 9:10a.m.
How could the shooter have been able to live stream the shooting...17 minutes of horrifying live footage of mass murder? Photo / Getty Images
How could the shooter have been able to live stream the shooting...17 minutes of horrifying live footage of mass murder? Photo / Getty Images

So many questions raised out of this terror attack in Christchurch, but one big one and actually one Winston Peters was flagging before this awful event even unfolded, is around the dangers of social media.

He was talking about it in relation to the assault on James Shaw, he said in response to that attack that there was a ‘new normal’ in regards aggression against MP’s. He was concerned about the extent and proliferation of anger expressed freely and constantly on social media.

Then Christchurch happened.

And the questions are being asked again, what role does social media have to play in all of this?

How much exposure to evil and extremist, rhetoric are we getting under the guise of ‘free speech’?

How could the shooter have been able to live stream the shooting...17 minutes of horrifying live footage of mass murder?

How did it end up on You Tube, on Facebook and remain there so long without being taken down?

Questions have been asked about the passivity of these platforms in addressing violent and obnoxious material.

Questions about their slowness to react.

Questions about algorithms.

Questions about the focus of these social media providers, more on clicks and dollars, than moral and social responsibilities.

Winston Peters says we need to readjust the way we think about social media, he says it’s ‘out of hand’.

He points to all the people providing the platforms and the lack of international attempts to contain it.

Can they contain it though?

The providers say with the millions of documents, comments, photos and film being uploaded every second around the world, it’s nigh on impossible to contain. It’s whack a mole. But surely they can do better.

Even on a smaller scale, my Christchurch based sister says she’s noticed in the past few years an upsurge in the vitriol in her businesses customer complaints section.

She believes with the prevalence of social media and everyone believing they have an outlet, that there’s been a diminishing level of respect in how people communicate. She says she’s been shocked at some of the comments on her businesses websites. She employs a lot of immigrants and says the level of hate for minority groups online, sickens her. She believes social media has become a breeding ground for trolls – a place where everyone believes they have a right to be heard, even if their views are hateful.

So how have we allowed this to fester and prosper for so long?

Have we become immune to the level of division and hate?

How can we stamp it out at grassroots level?

Maybe the best place to start is by teaching our children that there is no place ever, anywhere, for even casual racism or discrimination.

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