What’s A Social Media Site To Do?

Here’s a fascinating article from the New York Times that discusses the ethical issues that some social networking sites have been wrestling with in connection with the uprisings in the Middle East. Should Flicker enforce its policy that prohibits third party generated photos? Should Facebook remove content that some folks consider likely to incite an uprising? These are tough questions, with no easy answers. And it’s made more complicated by allegations that the sites don’t always enforce their terms of use consistently. So what’s the answer? As to the last point – consistent application, the best approach is to build flexibility into the terms of use. The terms should be guidelines, rather than rigid rules. As to the issue of regulating content? The best approach may be to look to the First Amendment. As private sites, Facebook and Flicker are not subject to the First Amendment, but they may be advised to adopt a system of “content neutral” regulation. It’s a tough task to decide that certain content is more “worthy” than other content. And social network sites are probably better off not wading into that pool.