Social media offers a tool for everyone and anyone to increase the transparency of actions that people and governments would otherwise hide. Traditional media, while it can be quite effective on occasion, has some fundamental obstacles to being an effective tool to fight corruption now and in the future.
“The media is too concentrated, too few people own too much. There’s really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It’s not healthy.” Ted Turner.
Of course, the truth of Mr. Turner’s words reveals two unavoidable tensions.
- Efforts by government and politicians to control the traditional media.
- An effort by traditional media (those five companies) to control the government.
Government Control of the Media
“You can crush a man with journalism.” William Randolph Hearst
In many countries, including the U.S., politicians are uncomfortable with their actions being subject to public observation and criticism. Those most concerned about criticism will attempt to exert control over the traditional media through regulation and even force. (U4 mediacorruption in developing Countries).
The Promise of Social Media in the Fight Against Corruption
The beauty of Social Media is that anyone can publish their observations and insights and thereby increase transparency to corruption in their government. Social Media, combined with new communication technologies provides cutting edge whistle blower tools, without going to the extremes of Edward Snowden.
Combined with the technologies of smart phones and other recording equipment, virtually every aspect of life can be captured on audio and video file and made available to the larger community.
We’ve seen use of such tools in reports during the elections in Iran, and currently in Ukraine.
And we’ve seen the success of websites such as “I Paid a Bribe.”
There is a gradual increase in the use of such tools to capture the demands and payments of bribes to police and other government officials. We can expect to see more video of police or government officials receiving cash.
The Challenge of Social Media
The challenge of social media is the vast size of the conversation. It represents over 100 million different perspectives and not all of them are honest or well meaning.
However, like the multiple viewpoints in any community, some will gather more attention than other and rise to the top – holding more influence than others on what may be the truth of things.
Of course this says nothing of fake messaging and “crowds” that may be organized by those with a more manipulative agenda.
The basic truth is that more transparency (observation of the truth) can only help. Even if that observation is distorted by the usual frailties of humanity. And social media, indeed any media, can be an essential tool to improve situations.
I’ll be publishing some ideas for the Individual Corruption Fighter that can be used to stimulate discussion in their communities
In the meantime, I look forward to the increased numbers of bloggers and Social Media users engaged in the fight against corruption.
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