Friday, 24 May 2013

What are the Implications of Social Media Censorship? Waseem Saddique Marketing Investigates

A recent BBC report revealed Facebook’s plans to begin censoring videos that depict ‘graphic violence’ or ‘unsavoury material’ that appears on the social networking site.

Waseem Saddique asserts: “Whilst there are no immediate plans for the widespread censorship of images and marketing material, there are active petitions now appearing on various platforms calling for Facebook and other social media sites to implement stricter censorship policies.”

What are the implications for businesses?  
Whilst there are currently no plans to censor adverts and prevent the use of social media for marketing purposes, petitioners are pushing hard for such restrictions to be imposed, according to the BBC report.

The decision to censor videos of an ‘unsavoury nature’ has sparked debate as to whether material should be censored. Social media sites are torn on the subject. On the one hand they don’t want to restrict ‘freedom’; after all social media is open to everyone. However, social media platforms also realise they have a duty to protect ‘vulnerable’ users of their services.

The question now is how far will the censorship of social media sites go? For businesses, the impact of censoring marketing material could prove devastating. By removing the freedom to post marketing material, businesses stand to see customer reach reduced dramatically.

Petitioners in favour of widespread censorship want to restrict the ability of businesses to broadly ‘spam’ social media users with marketing material. At present this can only be restricted by users adjusting their personal profile settings.

Waseem Saddique comments: “The issue of censoring material that appears on social media is sensitive and challenging, as everyone has different perceptions on what’s tasteful and distasteful.”

The BBC report alludes to a case of a business promoting ‘breast pumps’. The marketing campaign sparked complaints from some social media users who described the pictures featured in the campaign as advocating scenes of a ‘sexual’ nature in reference to an exposed breast.

To others the campaign was perfectly fine as breast feeding is a natural scenario for mothers all over the world. This case alone highlights the fine lines that determine what’s explicit and what isn't.

In the case of this particular company, they were asked to remove the marketing campaign in the interests of appeasing those who protested. The ramifications of this, should petitioners get their wish for increased censorship, could be highly detrimental to a number of companies.   

In communist countries, such as China for instance, the censorship of social media has already been taken to extreme lengths and the worry for many social media sites and businesses across the globe is that severe censorship policies could be implemented as law over the coming years.

The problem that Facebook faces in particular is satisfying its users. In March 2013 Facebook released figures showing that 665 million people accessed the site everyday throughout March. That’s a lot of people to appease without trampling on freedom of speech and balancing that with audience protection.

The ramifications for businesses, should censorship expand beyond videos and into marketing material, will certainly change the face of business marketing in the long term as it’s not just Facebook under pressure to implement stricter censorship policies.

Waseem Saddique states: “We understand that Facebook is now reviewing its censorship policy and other social media sites are set to follow suit. It’s now a case of awaiting the outcome and seeing what measures are put in place.”

Founded in 2007, Waseem Saddique Marketing has consistently provided small to medium enterprises as well as larger corporate firms with a range of digital marketing & online solutions.