How has the development of Social Media affected media regulation?

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Traditional media regulation is becoming significantly challenged by the user-centricity that is a feature of the contemporary media environment (Van Dijck, 2013). Social media means that users are able to exercise far greater control over the types of media that they wish to consume, and can also actively produce content (Vardeman-Winter & Place, 2015). The traditional approach to media regulation is that there are a relatively small number of users who produce the media, coupled with a large number of those who consume it, who are powerless to directly influence the content (Van Dijck, 2013). This means that the regulatory framework that was previously used which was founded on a command and control framework is inappropriate for a situation where there are substantial producers of content (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Regulatory action in social media is typically focused upon disclosure of interest, protection of children, codes of practice and the prohibition of offensive material (Van Dijck, 2013). This will be investigated as follows. First, the impact of social media upon media regulation will be discussed. Secondly, the approaches to self-regulation will be considered. Thirdly, the challenge of educating users that is necessary to achieve self-regulation will be discussed. Finally, the challenges posed to greater regulation of the media will be considered. The current model of media regulation has focused more upon the use of alternative regulatory instruments (ARIs). These are considered to be more effective in a fast-changing media environment. ARIs are defined as a collection of instruments, such as self and co-regulation, and have increased in its impact when referred by different media policy documents from the 1990s onwards (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). However, in practical terms there is less clarity on what is meant by these types of regulatory instruments (Van Dijck, 2013). There seems to be a sense in which they involve the use of non-governmental players, and stand as an alternative to the governmental approach (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). ARIs tend to refer to a regulatory framework that is distinct from the traditional form, and this tends to point towards self-regulation. Self-regulation is often seen as a solution in which the freedom of the internet can be maintained alongside a desire to reduce the impact of legislative regulation (Van Dijck, 2013). This means that regulation is effectively enforced by a group of actors within the social media, without any influence emanating from outside the group Lievens & Valcke, 2013). Given that social media comprises the users as also those who produce media products, there is an intuitive attraction to their being involved in the regulatory procedure (Fuchs et al., 2013). Furthermore, the users of media are traditionally involved in the regulatory mechanism, such as through their representation in the bodies of public service broadcasters, or through audience research (Croteau & Hoynes, 2013). Self-regulation also provides an empowerment to the users of social media, which is consonant with their position in the social media universe (Lievens & Valcke, 2013). This allows the regulation of social media to be fitted to the features of its use.

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