Saturday, April 13, 2024

Social media bashing out of bounds

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WE AGREE with Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe that those who use social media must be more responsible.

We firmly believe that social media sites should not be places where anyone can say anything about anybody and be allowed to get away with it.

We feel users of social media must be made to realise that what would be considered illegal and constituting a breach of criminal law offline is, generally speaking, illegal online.

Now that the police have also warned Barbadians about acts of bad-mouthing people online can constitute a criminal offence, hopefully those who take to the world wide web would recognise they are in a public place and conform to what would be considered appropriate communication.

Of course, we are heartened by the opportunities provided by Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites. They provide an expansive outlet for information on just about everything and, in our view, help to deepen our democracy by allowing everyone with access to the Internet to have their say on anything.

While this is a good thing in that it facilitates the sharing of constructive ideas which may lead to innovative ways to develop new products and services, it has also seen a proliferation of exaggerations, false information and, in too many cases, mischievous and malicious talk.

That is where we draw the line.

There is a difference between the right to freedom of speech and a free-for-all. Offensive comments serve only to hurt and demean the person they are aimed at. Those who insist on this type of communication are not using the right of free speech in a responsible way if what they say is untrue and simply targeted to inflict hurt.

Lowe was therefore on point when he said in the House of Assembly on Tuesday that “there are some people whose daily diet of intellectual stimulation is derived from a pottage of garbage that is spewed by elements in the social media”. And “those peddlers in the business of social media who believe that they are exempt from the responsibility that they have to be called to account”.

As a responsible newspaper, we must take an equally strong line as we recognise that with freedom of speech comes great responsibility.

For us this is a bread and butter issue.

We use our ability of freedom of expression to inform the public about current events. In doing so we must be forthright, act with integrity, and our information must be credible.

It is this combination of freedom of speech and responsibility that we exercise daily in our presentation of different perspectives on an issue to help the public make sense of what is going on around them.

For us, therefore, being responsible in what we do is priority number one, two and three. There can be no compromise on this.

That’s why those who use social media must seek always to be truthful and desist from negativity.

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