Every advancement of technology, whether it be cinema, television or the internet, has been under scrutiny due to the perceived impacts it can have on its users. Does television make audiences violent? Does television cause copy-cat behaviour? It is because of these media panics that there have been calls to restrict the use or access to these mediums and the messages shared by them. In this post, I want to focus on the internet and how its use has been regulated.
Media regulation is about protecting audiences that are impressionable or may be offended by particular content. This is not to say that a 6-year-old watching an MA rated movie filled with violence will grow up to become a serial killer. The regulations rather, are in place to protect children from damaging or potentially harmful images (Lamb, 2013).
In 1916, Professor Hugo Munsterberg said that media had the potential to be a “penetrating influence” and is “fraught with dangers” in that it could change the way people think and look at the world. (See, even in a time before the internet or television, ‘media panics’ were alive and well). However to prove this and to enforce regulation, scientific evidence needed to be presented of the negative effects. The Payne Fund Study investigated the impact of film content on the emotional and cognitive processes of children and the influence it may have on their performance in the classroom and attitudes.
The difference with a movie theater and the internet is that one is more controllable than the other. If a film is not considered to be appropriate for children under the age of 12, then they can be stopped from viewing the film. However, the same cannot be easily said for the internet. Access to any internet enabled device allows anyone of any age to be able to access any content, regardless of age appropriateness. The cinema has physical gatekeepers – the internet does not.
The example I want to focus on of media use and regulation in action is YouTube. It is the biggest video hosting site and to maintain its integrity, it has a number of policies for viewers and contributors to abide by, including no posting of videos containing: pornographic or sexually explicit images, graphic violence, contain hate speech, reveal other users’ personal information and violate copyright laws.
Is this a form of media regulation? Yes. Does YouTube have a right to control what is uploaded to their site? Yes. Each user has to abide by YouTube’s rules or risk being banned. The creators of the YouTube platform want it to be a place where users can be creative whilst creating content that is not harmful. Enforcing this can be incredibly difficult as there are tens of thousands of videos posted daily.As a result, YouTube depends on its users to flag what they deem is inappropriate for the platform. Thus, the user also becomes the regulator. It is about protecting the space (YouTube) so it can be a place (of an online forum of discussion) that is cohesive and appeases all users.
What do you think about media regulation, especially when it involve the internet? Do you think sites like YouTube should restrict the content that is uploaded and seen?
Strickland, J. (2007) How YouTube works. Available at: http://money.howstuffworks.com/youtube6.htm (Accessed: 1 October 2016).