The modern electronics PR agency relies as heavily on social media and the internet as it does print and broadcast. The publication of the Leveson report into UK press standards was anxiously awaited as technology PR agencies speculated on potential changes to the regulation of the press and internet. The published report called for an independent regulatory body for the press, as expected, but no such demand for social media and the internet.
This is not surprising as the internet is ‘beyond regulation’ and any attempts at legislation would be almost impossible to enforce. Social media has too many voices to silence. The law cannot expect to deal with the thousands of potentially libelous posts, blogs and tweets published everyday.
The difficulty of regulating the internet was not the only reason for its omission from the report. Leveson referred to the internet as ‘an ethical vacuum’ with no pretensions to social responsibility. The public do not expect social media messages to be completely trustworthy but expect the printed press to check their facts and be accountable. Much social media content is little more than an online record of throw away chat between friends and family, intended for a small audience and therefore should not be liable to regulation.
Leveson seemed to miss the fact that there is also a great deal of official communication by companies and organisations, including electronics PR agencies, who should be held accountable for their posts. For the foreseeable future it looks as if PR agencies will be able to ‘post with impunity’.
In an interview for The Holmes Report, PRCA’s Francis Ingham said “If regulation of the press becomes over-heavy, then PR people will simply accelerate their already fierce drive to digital. That makes it all the more vital our industry understands and owns digital.”
Digital remains a grey area. The future is uncertain with increased attention on influential bloggers and posters. If electronics PR agencies do indeed turn to digital channels to avoid the restrictions of regulation they may find that the freedom afforded the individual tweeter is soon denied them.