12 January 2011 by Naomi Isaacs
Tags: Social Media
As a high-profile and polarising public figure, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Sarah Palin screens her Facebook page. It’s perfectly within her right to do so. But with a strategy of deleting anything that could be deemed even vaguely critical, and even ‘unfriending’ those behind the posts, Facebook becomes no more than a piece of campaign literature – a choreographed platform for political cheerleading. It’s a policy of curation, rather than moderation.
What we’re left with is a community that only opens its doors to its advocates. From a political perspective, it could be an expedient short-term approach; it’s a great rallying point for mobilising your supporters. But for political figures and brands alike, there’s of course value in listening to your critics too. The true worth of social media channels lies in their ability to act as platforms for listening, learning, transparency and engagement; they're vocal networks, as well as social networks. To adopt all-out censorship as your tactic could be an act of cutting off your nose despite your face.
As Sarah Palin will have discovered today, when you begin to curate your content, you also set a dangerous precedent. That all moderation contains an element of editorial judgement is true, but with curation that becomes a bigger issue. You create the assumption that, in deleting comment you disagree with, you automatically endorse anything that remains. In doing so, you suddenly assume a greater level of responsibility for everything that appears. In the world of user-generated content, these are dangerous waters to be in.
There’s also a wider issue at stake here. For the likes of Palin and the Tea Partiers, if your dominant rhetoric and electoral strategy revolves around the constitutionally-embedded notion of ‘Freedom of Speech, there’s something contradictory about censoring comments that display even the tiniest hint of dissent. For brands, when it comes to deletion, it’s often the grounds of freedom of speech that they’re blasted on time and time again. And as many of them have discovered, in attempting to hide something you serve only to bring more attention to it; in fact it’s often the case that these acts of social media ‘moderation’ will overtake the issue to become stories in themselves.