How harmful is social media?
If you pick up a newspaper or listen to the news, you are bound to see similar stories, but with very different perspectives. Some may even seem contradictory to the other. With headlines still being dominated by stories of public health and racial tension, the social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have added new features to attempt to combat the spread of misinformation, disinformation and mal-information.
According to PR Daily, there are three forms of information that can be harmful:
- Misinformation is false information, though not created with negative intent.
- Disinformation is false information specifically created to harm a person or group.
- Mal-information is information based on reality, but used to inflict harm on a person or group.
The Society of Professional Journalists encourages all members of the media to operate on a foundation of four ethic principles. The first two are built on minimizing harm while seeking and reporting the truth. The others include acting independently and taking responsibility for one’s work by being accountable and transparent.
In college, I was taught that the number one rule of ethical journalism is to “do no harm.” While those that post on social media don’t have a specific code of ethics to abide by, the platforms themselves have added features to encourage users to “get the facts about” a particular issue which helps promote news media literacy.