Posted by: slee3324 | October 17, 2011

Media effects at the intesection of censorship & privacy

This week’s readings tell us that media, such as commercials, advertising and voter campaigns, have an effect on people’s behavior and influences public opinion. But, what effect does media privacy have on the two-way relationship between mass media and public opinion? Does increased censoring of online conversations lessen the influence mass media has on opinion leaders?

On September 25, 201, Durden (2011) reported in his blog post that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) submitted a vendor proposal request for the creation of a “Social Listening Platform” whose function is to gather data from various social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums and YouTube as well as primary news sources such as CNN, Wall Street Journal and Google News. (p. 1) The purpose being, “to get a better sense of the relevant concerns and discussions that are taking place in the public domain in order to improve our communications and engagement with the public,” (Ungerleider, 2011, p. 1) stated a Federal Reserve Bank of New York spokesperson, Jack Gutt.

According to Durden (2011), FRBNY will use information gathered to guide communication strategies in order to handle crisis situations, spot emerging trends, and reach key influencers. Katz (1957) tells us that the two-step flow of communication hypothesis “influences stemming from the mass media first reach opinion leaders who pass on what they read and hear to those of their every-day associates for whom they are influential.” In this context, the importance of interpersonal relations in mass communications underscores the need for FRBNY to focus their efforts on creating strategies that effectively engage opinion leaders in order to reach influential audiences.

This raises many questions in my mind such as what effect will these efforts have on the public’s willingness to interact with the FRBNY? Will they feel more or less comfortable with sharing information online now that they are being “watched” more closely? While the internet has created a space for more transparency and a heightened level of consumer action, are we entering an era of counterespionage? Will it evoke fear in speaking freely?

According to Durden (2011), FRBNY says it will be used for communication strategies, but this gives them much more power than that. It’s interesting to see the FBRNY request for proposal (2011) requesting the software have “the ability to identify discussions that are unrelated to FRBNY, such as anything related to Federal, FBI, etc.?” (Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2011, p. 14)  Interest in social media monitoring from other areas of government are increasing. Fast Company (2011) reports that “with the 2012 election heating up, nearly all major political candidates have created impressive social media monitoring systems.” (Ungerleider, 2011, p. 1) Many people may see government monitoring of social media as violating privacy rights, but it is also the future.

It will be interesting to see how FRBNY deploys such communication strategies and the influence it will have on its audiences. Giving them the ability to engage directly with content owners may increase their level of influence on such targeted opinion leaders. Will content owners be equally influential in changing bank policies? FRBNY is clearly raising its investment in becoming more engaged with its audience to be more effective in delivering its messages. While new media has increased consumer participation, I hope this increased level of government monitoring does not have a negative effect on the public. Activities such as harassing content owners who may speak objectively, censorship of offended material, post publication criminal penalties, and interference with the public’s ability to buy, read and listen online in the financial industry will ultimately lead to a decrease in participation based on fear.

Class discussion questions:

1.  What effect will increased monitoring of social media conent by government agencies have on the public’s willingness to be transparent when posting content?

2.  Will the public feel more or less comfortable with sharing information online now that they are being “watched” more closely?

3.  While the internet has created a space for more transparency and a heightened level of consumer action, are we entering an era of counterespionage? Will it evoke fear in speaking freely?

 References

Durden, T. (2011, September 25). Here comes FIATtackWatch: Ben ‘big brother’ Bernanke goes watergate, prepares to eavesdrop on everything mentioning the fed [blog post]. Retrieved from http://theglobalrealm.com/2011/09/26/here-comes-fiattackwatch-ben-big-brother-bernanke-goes-watergate-prepares-to-eavesdrop-oneverything-mentioning-the-fed/

Federal Reserve Bank ofNew York(FRBNY). (2011, September 23). Sentiment and analysis and social media monitoring solution request for proposal [supplemental material]. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/66281284/Frbny-Social-Media-Rfp

Katz, E. (1957). The two-step flow of communication: An up-to-date report on an hypothesis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 21(1), 61-78.

Ungerleider, N. (2011, October 11). The Federal Reserve plans to monitor Facebook, Twitter, Google News. Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/1786730/federal-reserve-bank-sentiment-analysis-social-media

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