Bobb Rousseau, Diaspora Matters Columnist
Since social media offers anyone with a smartphone connected to a $2 internet plan the capabilities to launch their platform, a microphone into the hands of these hosts of convenience is more dangerous than a weapon in the hands of a child, a disgruntled, or a mentally perturbed person.
Social media decentralizes the ways individuals get their news. It provides an outlet for anyone to push their agenda on an impressionable audience. Although such democratization produces some good for many individuals who would have not otherwise had the opportunity to be on the radio, it also opens a canal for false propaganda, misinformation, defamation, and shade-throwing.
Facebook and YouTube Live have become so prevalent in the broadcasting field that they, hands down, make traditional media platforms look like kindergarteners. In the process, they compel iTunes, Zeno, Streema, and other streaming media platforms to phase out in a hurry and for radio stations to invest thousands of dollars and unlimited resources to build an online presence.
With the ease of reaching broader audiences comes the challenging responsibilities to deliver content that maintains journalism’s integrity or that does not communicate offensive, hurtful, snide, or even slanderous statements that harm one’s reputation.
Few online radio hosts bump against the thin line between reporting factual statements and untrue statements, while others deliberately act with actual malice to demonstrate a total reckless disregard for others’ reputations. The latter’s goal is not to inform or educate but to create sensation and, ultimately, to feed public opinion with news that seemingly only they can find. They claim they are well connected to have the primacy of the country’s political temperament.
The danger is that they succeed, and in no time, they build a growing network of friends and followers that proudly like, subscribe, retweet, and share their content across other platforms.
Granted, few of them respect the press etiquette and, in many instances, are even better than many big-name veteran radio hosts. Still, the majority are doing a disservice to the profession by fabricating content deprived of good sense and reason, making them fall into the defamation category.
The first good news about defamation, which generally occurs when someone, either in writing or online, publishes an injurious statement to someone else’s reputation, is that countries have enacted laws to protect the victims. The United States voted the Communications Decency Act of 1995, whereas Haiti voted the Defamation Law of 2017, which reinforces article 28.2 of the constitution and items 313 to 323 of the penal code. The second good news that the host’s country is competent to receive and hear the plaintiff’s grievances.
However, rare individuals chose to take action against those hosts who broadcast false information about them. So it is because that it is almost impossible for someone to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the untrue statements somebody made about him or her are malicious and that they impacted his or her good standing in the community. As such, online talk show hosts, traditional radio hosts for that matter, continue to slander and libel with no fear of being held accountable for their insults.
Contrary to traditional radio hosts whose content may engage the actual radio stations, online broadcasts are neither censored nor do they engage the hosts’ Internet Service Providers.
Thus, we, listeners, hold the ability to sift the feeds we receive from whoever and to ensure they pass Socrates’s three filters test to fact check their truthiness, their goodness, and their utility. Otherwise, we leave the field wide-open to cultivate statements that cause more harm than good and transform the microphone into a time-sensitive bomb.