Woolwich attack & Social media

Yesterday was a sad day for Britain but there was also clear signs of hope. The truly heinous and barbaric act that resulted in the loss of a serving soldiers life is incredibly shocking but I am confident that the perpetrators will be dealt with in the correct way, that is to be brought to justice by law enforcement. I felt that had to be said but it is not really the emphasis of the post.


Social media has a huge role to play in reporting the news. Often it is Twitter that breaks news stories before even the big news organisations themselves and that’s good but it also brings with it challenges. The problem is that on Twitter and other social media there is no overall control and verification. If you are not aware Nick Robinson of the BBC was lambasted for a comment that he made, he even blogged about that very issue today. People were, rightly or wrongly, questioning why he made those comments and how unhelpful it was. The comment in question was to describe the attackers as being of “muslim appearance”. The issue here for me is not so much the comment but the response. So many people were quick to judge without arming themselves with the facts. It turned out that it wasn’t Nick who had said that but he was directly quoting a source from Whitehall. I tried somewhat in the sea of tweets to inform people of the facts and in fairness many responded and thanked me for the clarification. Tweeting is great and I am a big fan of it but it has it’s limitations. It can be dangerous when such misinformation is allowed to go and be spread without correction. The news organisations do not have this problem as they check and have someone to authorize the story.


The other main point that I would like to approach is video and photos of the attacks and the aftermath. With the world we live in now we want information now but that can come at a cost. As I was following the news yesterday I of course looked on the BBC and other reputable news outlets but I also followed Twitter. Unfortunately I saw photo’s that I don’t think I should have seen. Pictures of the poor soldier lying on the floor (deceased), photos of the attacker with bloodied hands…Has social media changed our way of thinking? Are we as a society getting desensitized to such atrocious photos? I question who thought it would be a good idea to share that? Imagine if the soldiers family were looking on Twitter and saw such pictures. Like I say Twitter and social media is brilliant but I think we need to step back a second and try and understand just what we are posting and the consequences of our actions before we click send.


Finally I just want to point out a more warming side that I find heartwarming and encouraging. Within an hour of the page being created in memory of the soldier who lost their life, this Facebook page had over 1 million likes. I am glad that people can unite and I can only hope that as the family come to terms with their loss, they may take some comfort knowing they have people around the country and world (which is what makes social media so great) thinking of them and supporting them. RIP young soldier, you won’t be forgotten and Britain will stay strong.

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