Shaping norms and values in Social Media – Democracy is messy, certainly in the media space

On May 8, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion around ‘Shaping Norms and Values of Social Media’, I was to share the World Economic Forum stage with Minister of Communications Dina Pule, the Executive Chairman of MultiChoice, Nolo Letele and two highly regarded representatives from Africa.

To boot, the small (50) hand selected audience consisted of media house owners, senior global journalists, prominent social media folk just to list a few.

The discussion revolved around the symbiotic relationship between social and traditional media, as both need to co-exist, each fuels the other however only one is regulated and is held accountable.

The debate was robust, the group believes that there will be an uncomfortable period where unverified news is broken too early in both channels, with instances where apologies come later.

The audience was a good mix of legislators, media players and citizens, and opinions were many and varied.

To illustrate examples, three major case studies were discussed and evaluated ranging from the Kenyan elections, to piracy issues in Nigeria, to online and media privacy in SA, using the recent Oscar Pistorius case as a point of reference.

There were interesting comments about media ‘sources’ and protection of media sources, there was commentary around the validity of Twitter and tweets as sources of media content.   The idea of creating greater responsibility behind ‘Verified Twitter’ accounts was also tabled.

The result was unanimous – we do not want and do not need more regulation / legislation governing the social media channels – the system will continue to self-regulate.

Our Minister went on to say that regulation in this space fundamentally infringes upon our basic right to opinion and freedom of expression.

In closing, one remark stood above the others – Democracy is Messy… you need to stand up for yourself.


 Kevin Welman is FH SA’s Managing Director