Dec 16

Hashtags, algorithms, ethical rules and regulation

by K. Tatakis

Competition sometimes is over hashtags in social media. Which hashtag will attract more users for a determined event?

Thus the more important the event is the most gets fragmented between hashtags in the social media world. An example is the recent (November 2016) earthquake in New Zealand when at least 4 hashtags like #nzearthquake , #eqnz , #nzquake , #earthquakenz appeared on Twitter next to more traditional ones’ as #earthquake.

Discussion other how algorithms influence what you’ ll see on your screen (and eventually your favorite search engine’s first pages (Meikle, 2016, p.78) is a hot and trendy topic with a variety of opinions about it.

Hashtags and algorithms, Design by K. Tatakis, December 2016

Continuing my review on Meikle’s recent book (Meikle 2016), I will stay now on users’ behaviours and users’ tiredness of exploring for long the same topic.

Meikle suggests that the continuous news flow over a certain subject, sooner or later makes the user unable or unwilling to follow developments (Meikle, 2016, p.75). There are of course are e-mail notifications, rss feeds and other tools to help people dealing with augmented flows but to my opinion users are feeling a psychological fatigue and a sense of burn-out, when constantly following the same subject. Thus it is more up to researchers to follow at long term a story than to everyday users which tend to change preferences when tired or when there is no immediate resolution over a problem.

Ethical rules: Some obey, others not

Meikle successfully questions over the significance and the importance of ethical rules on the web. Some obey on ethical principles, but often the same rules are heavily violated by individual users or even by organizations (Meikle, 2016, p.79). The advance of Syrian refugees in the heart of Europe was an example of this. Kids’ privacy was disregarded in some cases on visual documents about it…In a traditional news environment there would have been probably a debate over the need of publishing such pictures and the possible intervention of press syndicates in such a debate. Once now this is done individually by citizens – journalists and others, we are entering a new era regarding ethical rules and this landscape is is often full of new controversies.

Such a conclusion is close to the question pointed out Read, Taithe and Mac Ginty which in a recent article pointed out that “it becomes potentially problematic if technologies become naturalised and mainstreamed to the extent that they are not subject to fundamental questioning, or they exclude methodologies” (Read, Taithe, Mac Ginty, 2016, p.1325).

As traditional media get weaker and numbers of professional journalists working on night shifts reduced, the demand for 24/7 news is not always responded from such media as rapidly as a user would like. That is something that articles about last August earthquake in Italy reveal (Neri, 2016), (Minzi 2016).

The other side of the coin in this era is what Meikle calls “Being first counts more than being right” (Meikle, 2016, p.83).

Meikle’s book gives us some fresh views over an ongoing phenomenon which is social media influence on societies and every day’s life, an influence which is more significant and omnipresent than it ever was. “Communication, sharing and visibility” (Meikle, 2016, p.iii) are now more global than ever with the pros and the cons of such an expansion. “Raising public awareness” as Fuchs (2014, p.261)suggests about data handling and privacy problems could trigger a fruitful discussion over it.

A development of social media and new media for the social good will ask for new regulating schemes sooner or later, as technology only now start to mature. Will such regulation agent be social approval, self regulation, a public & experts commission, or eventually a new technology like

blockchain time will tell cause it’s only now the majority of people realizes how much the world changed over the last 20 years.


Fuchs, Christian (2014).Social Media: A critical introduction, London-Thousand Oaks: SAGE

Meikle, Graham (2016). Social Media: Communication, Sharing and Visibility, New York – Oxon, Routledge.

Minzi, Simone (2016, August 24). Terremoto 24 Agosto 2016: la notte in cui Twitter superò la stampa. Retrieved in November 1, 2016 from http://www.araundu.it/blog/2016/08/24/terremoto-24-agosto-2016-la-notte-in-cui-twitter-supero-la-stampa/

Neri, Gianluca (2016, August 24). Il giorno in cui in Italia morì  la stampa. Retrieved in November 1, 2016 from http://www.macchianera.net/2016/08/24/il-giorno-in-cui-in-italia-mori-la-stampa/

Read, Róisin, Taithe, Bertrand and Mac Ginty, Roger (2016). Data hubris? Humanitarian information systems and the mirage of technology, Third World Quarterly Third World Quarterly, 37(8), 1314-1331. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2015.1136208

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