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Towards More Ethical Management of Online Social Interactions

The next session at ANZCA 2017 deals with social media and ethics, and starts with Jonathon Hutchinson. This needs to be tackled from a number of different perspectives. For instance, what ethical choices are being made as publishers approve or reject the comments being posted in response to their articles? What are the implications of these choices, for public debate in general and for specific groups and individuals being vilified in particular?

This highlights the role of publishers, platform providers, moderators, content editors, and others as intermediaries in public communication via social media and related platforms. Social visibility is being operationalised for constructive as well as destructive purposes; social media languages are evolving and may serve to include or exclude particular interlocutors.

There are various regulatory institutions that engage with these processes, more or less effectively. Intergovernmental organisations are regulating the Internet as a technological assemblage; commercial companies are building and operating their specific platforms; teams within and beyond these platforms are engaging in the day-to-day moderation and management of these spaces; and national governments are developing legislative frameworks that seek to mitigate harm and address inappropriate activities.

How can this translate into ethical social media? Jonathon draws on Bourdieu's work on cultural intermediaries, who negotiate between disparate groups of stakeholders and act variously as change agents, influencers, and community managers. Change agents work with the community to disseminate positive messages designed to engender change; influencers accumulate a large following within the community and use that positioning to create constructive consensus; community managers are formally employed and empowered to negotiate between different groups to address areas of disagreement (and there is now an Australian Code of Ethics for community managers).