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Introduction

For many years the media evolution from print to radio, to TV and now online media has continued
to influence mass opinions and perceptions. However, the emergence of social media sites such as
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has taken this very concept a step further, with some arguing that
social media now shape the opinions, perception and actions of the majority whose opinions were
previously shaped by information from traditional and mainstream media houses.

Todays web and the new media underpin the ability to create instant communication sensations.
From Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and a collection of blogs, a news statement can advance from
zero to 20 million viewers overnight. The viral nature of this highly social, userdriven environment
enables complete strangers to connect over common beliefs, desires or interests and together
create winners and losers.

In what we refer to as the information age or digital age our technological advancements in the
area of ICT have helped overcome limitations of time and space in communication, information
sharing and networking. This not only affects how we connect with other people and how we do
business, but also how we interact in the political sphere. In that context, social media can be
considered as a potential tool for facilitating the social contract between the citizens and the state.
For example, government can potentially use social media platforms to solicit feedback on its
policies and political actions, while citizens can use the same platforms to express and vent their
anger, frustrations or acceptance of whatever actions government is undertaking. Online tools and
social media can open new avenues for participation. Social media platforms can help citizens
explore new ways of cooperation and collective action, they can provide opportunities for mobilising
people around a common cause or for sensitising the public on specific issues. Unlike traditional
media, social media are an open space, potentially giving every individual a means to directly reach
out to the public. The advancement of online content and social media has greatly expanded the
variety of sources of information.

Traditional media regulation is becoming significantly challenged by the user-centricity that is a


feature of the contemporary media environment (Van Dijck, 2013). Social media means that users are
able to exercise far greater control over the types of media that they wish to consume, and can also
actively produce content (Vardeman-Winter & Place, 2015). The traditional approach to media
regulation is that there are a relatively small number of users who produce the media, coupled with a
large number of those who consume it, who are powerless to directly influence the content (Van Dijck,
2013). This means that the regulatory framework that was previously used which was founded on a
command and control framework is inappropriate for a situation where there are substantial producers
of content (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Regulatory action in social media is typically focused upon
disclosure of interest, protection of children, codes of practice and the prohibition of offensive material
(Van Dijck, 2013). This will be investigated as follows. First, the impact of social media upon media
regulation will be discussed. Secondly, the approaches to self-regulation will be considered. Thirdly,
the challenge of educating users that is necessary to achieve self-regulation will be discussed. Finally,
the challenges posed to greater regulation of the media will be considered.
The current model of media regulation has focused more upon the use of alternative regulatory
instruments (ARIs). These are considered to be more effective in a fast-changing media environment.
ARIs are defined as a collection of instruments, such as self and co-regulation, and have increased in
its impact when referred by different media policy documents from the 1990s onwards (Lievens &
Valcke, 2013). However, in practical terms there is less clarity on what is meant by these types of
regulatory instruments (Van Dijck, 2013). There seems to be a sense in which they involve the use of
non-governmental players, and stand as an alternative to the governmental approach (Lievens &
Valcke, 2013). ARIs tend to refer to a regulatory framework that is distinct from the traditional form,
and this tends to point towards self-regulation.
Self-regulation is often seen as a solution in which the freedom of the internet can be maintained
alongside a desire to reduce the impact of legislative regulation (Van Dijck, 2013). This means that
regulation is effectively enforced by a group of actors within the social media, without any influence
emanating from outside the group Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Given that social media comprises the
users as also those who produce media products, there is an intuitive attraction to their being involved
in the regulatory procedure (Fuchs et al., 2013). Furthermore, the users of media are traditionally
involved in the regulatory mechanism, such as through their representation in the bodies of public
service broadcasters, or through audience research (Croteau & Hoynes, 2013). Self-regulation also
provides an empowerment to the users of social media, which is consonant with their position in the
social media universe (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). This allows the regulation of social media to be fitted
to the features of its use.
Education is, however, a requirement for effective social media regulation in order to ensure that the
rights and responsibilities of using social media are understood (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).
Providing content that is against the users' terms and conditions of the specific site is not an effective
means to educate users as these are rarely read (Fuchs et al., 2013). The publicity that ensues when
a social media user unwittingly commits a crime often has the impact of educating users. It has been
noted, for example, that for many users of social media an understanding of the intricacies of
defamation may not be as widely appreciated as is the case for the newspaper industry (O'Keeffe &
Clarke-Pearson, 2011). There are thus some issues where people have been prosecuted for
retweeting a defamatory statement simply because it was not widely understood that broadcasting
such information could be illegal regardless of its provenance (Campbell et al., 2014). However, this
publicity then at least ensures that there is a wider appreciation of what constitutes defamation in
such cases and thus functions as a method of education (Fuchs et al., 2013). Furthermore, the extent
to which self-regulation can apply to some of the key concerns of regulatory bodies, such as the
protection of children or the removal of hate speech may be challenged (Campbell et al., 2014). There
is an argument that the greater consumer choice that is exercised in the case of social media should
result in a reduced level of regulation to take into account the extent to which the choice exercised by
the user can play a role (Van Dijck, 2013). Consumers may thus be put in greater control of their own
choices, but in order to do so, they need to be aware of the dangers that can arise through a lack of
knowledge of appropriate behaviour.
Education is more commonly provided as a result of the user's inappropriate behaviour being
corrected by the social media site (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). This means that where material is posted
that concerns other viewers, it may be flagged as inappropriate with the viewers being asked why
they find it objectionable. The content is then reviewed by the regulatory body of the site which then
can either approve or remove the content (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). This relies upon the users of the
site to establish whether the material is likely to need regulating, rather than observing content
individually (Van Dijck, 2013). A significant drawback of this method is that it represents an ex ante
approach, allowing the material to remain online for as long as it takes to be reported (Lievens &
Valcke, 2013). This means that where copyright is compromised or sensitive material is posted, the
content remains public allowing for it to be copied (Buckingham & Willett, 2013). Such examples may
be seen in cases where the rules are broken; where the posting is taken down on the original
account, it is already too late and the information may be reposted repeatedly (Lievens & Valcke,
2013).
This characteristic of social media regulation means that the regulation of material is significantly
limited, as material cannot be prevented from being broadcast by being reported as offensive
(Lievens & Valcke, 2013). However, this does not extend as far as is the case for traditional media
and stories that are entirely false that would not be permitted in a newspaper can be distributed freely
through social media (Van Dijck, 2013). Although individuals may report them, they are often not
removed unless they illustrate features that are against the terms of the use agreement (Baron,
2015). The process of reporting such content after it is published is therefore not a fully effective way
to regulate content, and, moreover, involves looser regulation than is generally accepted for
journalistic standards (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). At the same time, censorship is not applied on the
basis that the information presented may be false and misleading (Van Dijck, 2013). Although this
model does tend to empower users, the extent to which it provides an effective model of regulation
can be questioned, as it cannot prevent false material from being published, as is the case for the
traditional media.
The AVMS Directive was published by the European Commission in 2007, complemented by a
Communication on media literacy (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). It was suggested that the promotion of
media literacy was a more appropriate approach that the provision of advertising bans (Bertot et al.,
2012). This has been explored particularly in cases where social media is used to develop the
employees approach to social media in governmental or corporate context (Lievens & Valcke, 2013).
Internal social media policies are usually created, and advice given on how best they may be used to
elicit consumer or citizen engagement. However, there are divisions between how social media is
used in an official capacity and the differences between how employees use social media as an
individual can undermine the effectiveness of such regulation (Bertot et al., 2012). This illustrates that
the trend towards self-regulation is only largely effective in the context where social media should be
better understood by the user. For the majority of users, regulation is perhaps undermined by a lack
of the education that has been argued as essential for its effective use.
Despite the calls for greater regulation, resistance has come from the belief that it presents significant
economic opportunities. The barriers to regulation against audiovisual content on sites such as
Youtube has been seen as tantamount to reducing choice for viewers (Lievens & Valcke, 2013).
Parallels are drawn between how the highly regulated broadcasting environment in television in the
1980s reduced the level of choice for viewers. Furthermore, the use of social media to promote
products and services provides a number of challenges to the regulatory environment in that it is not
always easy to establish whether commercial activity is being undertaken by an individual for personal
(Van Dijck, 2013). If an individual promotes a brand and does not conform to regulation that affects
advertising, the extent to which they may be liable for omission or exaggeration poses a regulatory
challenge (Evans, 2012). For example, situations where an employee represents themselves as a
consumer can undermine the validity of the media regulation (Evans, 2012).
This lack of regulation can thus have significant effects on the veracity of other media. In April 2013, a
bomb was detonated near the finishing line of the Boston Marathon (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Social
media played a significant role in disseminating information about the bombing, much of which was
accurate. However, there was a range of misleading information that included significant factual
errors. A tweet suggesting that an arrest had been made was retweeted 13,930 times and reported as
fact by major news corporations (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). This is an example where the lack of
regulation allowed assertions to be made, which could then circulate as fact without verification.
Social media can thus perpetuate the misinformation available, and the fact that there is no regulation
requiring users to only provide true material when broadcasting undermines this (Dabbagh &
Kitsantas, 2012).
A similar issue surrounding social media use is the potential for it to be used for bullying (Creech,
2013). For example, for some individuals who have been insensitive may find themselves receiving
death threats, and in other contexts their home locations may be shared (Croteau & Hoynes, 2013).
This means there is an apparent propensity of social media to provide a kind of mob rule.
Unfortunately, because these situations escalate relatively quickly, the type of ex ante regulation that
is usually applied is ineffective as it is impossible to challenge a fast moving story that is repeated
thousands of times (Jewell, 2013). This means that social media challenges the traditional
gatekeeping process of journalism, but is less regulated, undermining the extent to which information
can be disseminated (Vardeman-Winter, & Place, 2015).
A final key area in which social media regulation is likely to pose significant challenges to the existing
model of media regulation is due to its international nature (Van Dijck, 2015). Media regulation has
previously allowed regulation to take place on a national basis, so material deemed unsuitable for
broadcast were easily prevented. For example, allegations surrounding the royal family have often
been regulated against dissemination in the UK, but are freely disseminated abroad. Social media
allows such allegations to be freely disseminated (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). In many cases, traditional
broadcasters can be restricted, even where they are situated abroad and are cable operators
(Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Social media effectively undermines the potential for such broadcasting to
take place, meaning that its effect on the regulatory environment extends to undermining existing
regulation that is organised on a national basis (Van Dijck, 2013). Social media thus not only
challenges the reach of media regulation in terms of its nature, it also acts to undermine the effect of
existing legislation.
Context of Social Media Engagement in UnitedKingdom

Within the UnitedKingdomn context, social media users are mostly urban elite, students, youth,
politicians, civic actors, all who influence political and governance processes. The information shared
amongst themselves on social media platforms ultimately shapes the opinions and perception of the
broader mass population and in turn shapes the manner in which traditional media houses cover the
news. Media today as we know has significantly changed from what traditionally was the practice,
with social media dramatically shaping the way news is consumed, distributed and reported. The
trend in UnitedKingdom especially among the youth, the elite, and urban dwellers who are the
majority social media users, is increasingly turning away from traditional media houses to social
media sites for news updates consequently allowing users to share news stories, images or videos,
and to discuss a news issue or event.

Social Media and the News

Traditional media players are yet to fully recognize social media information as news. While it
remains debatable whether digital technology has weakened or strengthened journalism, what is for
sure is that social media has shaken up the media business model and ushered it into a new age
one where journalists are not simply responsible for storytelling but also engaging with their
audiences through social media, blog posts and other mediums. The biggest change impacting the
industry today is how consumers are getting their news. Outside newspapers or desktop news,
consumers are looking to their mobile devices for the latest updates. Reporters are now encouraged
to become more entrepreneurial in how they make their stories available, whether it be through
their Twitter account or podcasts. Considerations are being made with the knowledge that news
consumers on social media have a limited attention span because news content now competes for
attention with other non-news-related content. An issue that could easily tempt reporters into
dramatizing their news content in an effort to compete for attention with other social media
content.

Conclusion
In conclusion, social media has had a significant impact upon on media regulation. It does not fit
clearly into traditional models of regulation and this undermines how such media may be regulated.
Because it can blur the edges of different media types, in that it can provide news or advertising at the
same time, it can also challenge regulatory frameworks based upon such media remaining discrete.
Self-regulation is suited to the nature of the media, but poses significant challenges to existing
regulatory frameworks, as it does not prevent the dissemination of sensitive or false material; it simply
allows it to be removed ex ante. Social media also undermines the extent to which existing regulatory
frameworks may be conducted on a national basis as any information that is disseminated is thus
available globally. These features have effectively reduced the impact of regulation and thus far the
focus on self-regulation has done little to prevent the whole-scale diminution of media regulation.