** Please note the following post contains graphic and distressing images **
There are hundreds of codes and classifications to regulate media content in Australia. These codes acknowledge the differences between ‘spaces and audiences’ (Bowles, K 2015) to protect viewers from concerning content. Most medias are covered by codes, however with social media it is left up to the community users to regulate and censor content. The terms and conditions of sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter explain how the ‘service is not responsible for content to the fullest extent of the law’ (Bowles, K, 2015). So regulating is left up to us, the viewers. What is ok to share, and what is not?
Social media is a powerful tool. Images and videos have the power to go viral for the better. Sometimes it circulates messages that need to be told and for years have not been heard. A recent example that is most memorable was the image of the small dead Syrian child, washed up on the beach in Turkey, the body then lifted by a solider. The boy was one of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who pile on to boats to Europe in search for a better life. The image went viral the world over and ‘symbolised the tragedy of it all’ (Media Watch, 2015). ‘Dead children are normally taboo’ (Media Watch, 2015) and would definitely be listed as a big no in most codes and classifications in Australia. However this particular image had a profound impact all over the world not just on social media, but on mainstream traditional medias such as newspaper covers and television. Why is this image ok to share and talk about?
The community is the biggest regulator of them all. United voices on social media have created some of the biggest activist campaigns the world has ever seen. This power can be used to share or censor content, depending on the context. The Image of the dead boy is an example of how the global community voice can even overpower government codes and classifications. A dead child would generally not be allowed to be shown on any mainstream medias and would in any other context, be removed from social media via community censorship. In this situation, the image is being used to better.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, 40% of Syria’s population -8 million people – have been displaced (UNHRC, 2015). This crisis has now been going on for 4 years. However one powerful image and the voices of the online world have united to create action. Governments have increased funding to the crisis and have agreed to accept more refugees than planned. Australia pledged $44 million in emergency aid after the virality of one image (Media Watch, 2015). Censorship is a complex body that generally speaking is enforced. However it is images such as this that need to be shared to represent the intense tragedy. It will represent an issue so perfectly that it is impossible to be ignored any longer. Even though this young boy did not get to live out a better life, an image of his death was powerful and it changed the world.
Bowles, K 2015 ‘Week 9: Regulating Audiences’, University of Wollongong, Semester 2. Retrieved from <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/course/view.php?id=6402>
Media Watch, 2015. ‘The Power of an Image’, ABC Media Watch, 14 September 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4312433.htm>
UNHCR, 2015, ‘Internally Displaces People Figures’ 2014, Retrieved from <http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c23.html>