Tag Archives: social media

Platform Independence and Diversity

I’ve always believed in platform diversity to avoid economic damage and economic coercion. Have I been as vigilant as I needed to be? Doesn’t look like it. Now the stakes seem a lot higher than that even! I’m signing up for the social media and other platforms people I know are recommending. I don’t know how many it will be and how many will be able to stay in operation and how many I will want to stay on. When the dust settles a little I will probably add some logos to my contact page that lead to different platforms and update my profiles. Right now my priority is to get accounts to see which ones stay usable.

It’s supposed to be illegal in the United States for businesses to punish you for doing business with competitors. So let’s test it, shall we?

I don’t have time to write a lot now, but a good starting point is here:

Disclaimer – I’m not an attorney. I took a class in Media Organization Regulations last fall. That is all I know so far.

This paper I wrote recently will help explain why I’m saying and writing this right now – http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/4160-2/

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper - didn't end up using them all but could have if I kept going!
Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper – didn’t end up using them all but could have if I kept going!

I turned in my final paper for Media Organization Regulations last night. It was already a lot longer than it needed to be for the assignment, but I would have kept writing more if I had more time, right or wrong!

This isn’t graded yet. If I make any changes after grading I’ll update this intro with a note. I am not an attorney or law student. Edit 12-22-20 – I found and fixed a couple of typo-type errors in the Works Cited section.

At the end I have links to sources, and after that links to other posts on this blog that are on related topics in case you think the subject is interesting and want to read more. I’ll also link to the Pinterest board I use to help collect and organize sources I might use. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
20 December 2020

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Physical abuse of women in history has been mostly allowed to go on without consistent punishment until the 1990s.  Hundreds of years of beliefs that abuse victims deserve it, that the perpetrators who are punished are the real victims, or that abuse victims must be lying will likely take generations to diffuse because they were validated by hundreds of years of attitudes as well as the lack of prohibitive laws.  Another obstacle abuse victims have to face is a lack of enforcement even when there were applicable laws on the books (Bancroft 321).

In our culture, physical violence against domestic partners is slowly becoming less acceptable.  It is not as common as it used to be for family members, neighbors, or bystanders to look the other way when they witness abuse.  Some schools even teach children that they are entitled to safety from family members in their home instead of only strangers outside of it when they are teaching them how to call 911 for help (Bancroft 293).

Even though emotional and economic abuse can inflict severe harm, there are not as many legal preventive measures or remedies available for mental abuse as there are for physical violence (Bancroft 293).  It is difficult to promote awareness of the seriousness of emotional abuse when physical abuse has only been taken seriously in very recent history (Bancroft 321).

Negligent infliction of emotional distress, or NIED, is a tort that can be used in a suit against someone who carelessly caused emotional harm to another person (Trager et al 184).  A plaintiff hoping to win such a suit must be able to prove the following facts (Trager et al 184):

  • The defendant had a duty to use due care in interactions with the plaintiff.
  • The defendant acted negligently while failing to use due care.
  • The plaintiff has suffered injury.
  • The injury can be proven to be caused by the plaintiff’s negligent actions.

Attempts have been made to bring NIED lawsuits against the media as well as individual abusers, but they usually are not successful (Trager et al 185).  It is difficult for the plaintiff to prove proximate cause, that is, a reasonable finding that the defendant’s actions were directly to blame for the plaintiff’s injury (Trager et al 184).  It is theoretically much easier to prove that a media plaintiff was negligent because there are ample studies showing how media members should behave if they care about the public’s well-being, but negligence alone is not enough to win a suit (Trager et al 184-185).

If the behavior of the media defendant is so outrageous that “a civilized society” would consider it “intolerable and beyond all bounds of decency” then the potential tort might rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, or IIED (Trager et al 179).  The plaintiff must still prove direct causation (Trager et al 179).  In addition, if the plaintiff is a public figure, the defendant must be proven to have acted with actual malice, that is “publishing with knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth” (Trager et al 181).  Even actual malice is sometimes not actionable if the courts interpret the defendant’s actions as satire or parody, or if the subject of the offending speech is about a matter of “public concern” (Trager et al 184).

One reason the media has so much latitude is because the founders of our country considered a free press and freedom of speech to be so important that they specified those rights in the First Amendment (Baran and Davis 30).  When members of the media are criticized for having harmful effects on our culture, they argue that they are not that influential, that they reflect society but don’t have the power to shape it.  At the same time, the media tells advertisers they can give them a good return on their investment and if an organization is of any significant size, be it government, nonprofit, or business, they spend money and resources on maintaining a public relations department (Baran and Davis 30).  A belief that media IS very influential is apparently coming from somewhere.

There has been disagreement among theorists, academics, government officials, media companies and the public about how legally free from restraint the media should be ever since there was such a thing as media (Baran and Davis 62-63).  The idea of technocratic control was considered and debated in the United States but ultimately rejected, at least if it was framed as control by the government.  Technocratic control is “direct regulation of the media” by technocrats, people considered to possess the correct values and skills to regulate media for the welfare of the public (Baran and Davis 62).  One of the reasons government technocratic control was rejected in the United States in the 20th century was because there was no consensus on who was qualified to have that power (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Regulations that applied in certain situations that passed First Amendment tests have been enacted over the years and are sometimes thrown out by the courts when re-tested.  The limits are renegotiated constantly from both the direction of greater freedom and the direction of more control (Baran and Davis 63).

Part of my incentive in choosing in this paper to examine parallels between domestic abusers and media abusers is the observation that both groups have the characteristic of constantly testing limits, like predators looking for weaknesses and loopholes to see what their targets and society will let them get away with.  Awareness and legislation often lag behind the latest technological developments and technocracy strategies.  Another reason is that abusers and media utilize many of the same manipulative techniques.  Does the media share some of the same motivations as domestic abusers?  Neither group can be trusted to be forthcoming about their intentions because of course they are more effective when their tactics are opaque – one can only judge by observing patterns of behavior.

There is another parallel between domestic abuse and media behavior that could be examined from a regulatory perspective.  In considering the pattern of legal intervention in abuse, physical harm was an obvious effect of abuse to be considered worthy of attention by the law.  When consumer products began to be subject to regulation in the United States, the danger of physical harm to the public was also an issue addressed early on.

Consumer protection laws began to be enacted in some US states as early as the mid-1800s to protect the public from adulterated food and drugs (Pride and Ferrell 78).  The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created to assume responsibility, formerly handled by the Department of Agriculture, for testing agricultural products (“The History of FDA’s…”).  The 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act was a continuation this public safety work as the regulatory body evolved into what we know as the FDA by the 1930s (“The History of FDA’s…”).  There was a further push for increased legislation designed to reduce physical harm from products, their advertising, and labeling in the 1960s and 1970s (Pride and Ferrell 78).  Today there are several additional federal agencies created to help protect consumers.  Some of the major ones are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Pride and Ferrell 80).

Ideas are also products – they can be sold using a lot of the same strategies as tangible goods.  By the 1930s, the notion of regulating harmful ideas was part of the discussion and remains so to the present day (Baran and Davis 68).  An influential compendium of the state of scholarship on media effects, The Effects of Mass Communications, was published by Joseph Klapper in 1960.  Klapper’s opinion was that media was more of a reinforcer than a dictator of current culture because there were mitigating social institutions in peoples’ lives such as churches, families and schools (Baran and Davis 114).  If media actors with self-serving and destructive intentions wanted a strategy for how to break down society to bend more people to their will, it was made readily available to them, however unintentionally, by Klapper and other theorists.

Consumer protection laws of a sort directed at media and advertising do currently exist under the auspices of agencies like the FTC and the FCC.  Normally these laws don’t deal much with physical harm unless the issues are safety related.  Physical injury is however sometimes considered as part of the negligent infliction of emotional distress tort in some states.  It is acknowledged in some jurisdictions that physical assault can cause emotional distress, and severe emotional distress can cause harmful physical symptoms and disease (Trager et al 185).  If the link between the media and emotional abuse is better studied and acknowledged, and the link between emotional distress and physical disease is likewise given due consideration, a pathway to further regulation of media to protect consumers might be blazed through studies of the physical sufferings of those harmed when media abuse goes too far.

The FCC is permitted to regulate broadcast media to an extent because the airwaves are considered the property of the people.  Broadcast stations are thought to have a responsibility to the public due to the people’s ownership of the airwaves (Trager et al 402-403).  It is less clear who, if anyone, “owns” the internet, but it was originally partially developed by US taxpayer-supported institutions (Press).  As of 2015 the amount of foreign ownership of US communications companies was capped at 25% with the then-current FCC commissioner proposing to raise the cap on foreign investment or eliminating it entirely (Traeger et al 404).  The policy that foreign companies would be allowed to own anything that US citizens own or paid to develop is something the FCC could reconsider by following their normal procedures for a change of policy (Traeger et al 401).  Any corporation, association or individual affected by FCC regulations has the legal right to a challenge in Federal appellate court (Traeger et al 402).  Foreign exploitation via international internet scams is rampant all over the world but we still allow access to our citizens by criminals from foreign countries who don’t participate in international anti-fraud measures (“Report international scams…”).  Economic exploitation tips the power balance in the abuser’s favor (Bancroft 156).

Tactics Employed by Domestic Abusers

Here are some of the techniques that abusers use to gain control over their victims (Bancroft 74, 145-146, 213-214, Dwyer 55-56).

  • Ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs, and sarcasm
  • Distorting what was said
  • Accusing you of doing what they do, or thinking the way they think (projection)
  • Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”
  • Turning your grievances around to use against you
  • Criticism that is harsh, undeserved, or frequent
  • Provoking inappropriate guilt
  • Playing the victim
  • Swearing
  • Threatening to harm you
  • Discrediting, spreading rumors
  • Silencing
  • Getting other people to put pressure on you
  • Spreading confidential information (doxxing)
  • Presenting one face in public and another in private to gain credibility and trust
  • Using events from the past or situations that can’t be changed as a reason a person should accept poor treatment
  • Collective punishment
  • Separating the target from sources of support

It is not easy sometimes for us to imagine that our entertainment providers would knowingly set out to abuse us, the consumers.  People often feel warm emotions toward celebrities and providers of entertainment.  A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might be the case (Tan 45).  “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.”  The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

One trap that is easy for consumers to fall into is to forget that we are not really the ultimate customers for most entertainment products – the advertisers and sponsors are.  We may be the audience, but we are not the customer.  When considered in that light, it is a little more understandable why entertainment and media companies would be willing to actively abuse us, or at least not care if we become collateral damage.

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Jim Taylor proposed that what we now call “popular culture” is no longer a reflection of the genuine culture of the people, but an artificial, media-cultivated corporate culture that he names “synth culture” (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  Cultivation Analysis is the theory that the media present a view that does not necessarily reflect reality, but because people believe it does, reality changes to conform to the media (Baran and Davis 287).  As early as the 1950’s, architects were creating buildings and landscapes to conform to movie and television versions of reality.  The cultural landscape known as Disneyland, for example, was the product of a media corporation and was not merely appealing to existing media-cultivated tastes but actively implanting them (Hine 150-152).

If the culture we have is not based on the genuine culture of the people but is deliberately planted there by the media, I postulate that if we don’t already have it, we will end up with a government that is no longer “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but is of the self-appointed media technocracy whose primary interest is in exploiting us (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  It’s obvious which political direction the technocracy wants us to go.  If we ask why, the large media corporations have the power to remove questions from public debate through moderating content and banning users with certain views even though they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“Does Section 230’s…”).

The Rewards of Being Abusive

Above I have listed some of abuser’s techniques – now I’ll provide some of the possible incentives that motivate people to abuse other people.  Abusers enjoy the following advantages and privileges in life (Bancroft 43, 152, 153-158):

  • Abuse victims change their behavior and work to bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.
  • Abusers gain the freedom to behave as they desire without restraint while getting lots of attention.
  • After being catered to, they get praise for being a great person and improve their public image when they act decent.
  • The comforts, privileges, and financial advantages of being catered to are too attractive to give up.
  • The thrill of having power is a seductive feeling.
  • The abuser can pick and choose low-stakes situations to act altruistic so that they can cultivate a positive image without making any actual sacrifices.
  • Abusing others can give the abuser temporary relief of frustration at life’s annoyances.
  • Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.
  • When people are deprived of financial resources or financial autonomy, they are much easier to control.
  • The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.
  • The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.
  • Disunity among a group gives the abuser more power by directing attention into fighting among themselves rather than holding the abuser accountable.

Abuse Examples and Comparisons

Here are a few examples of how members of the media have used abuse techniques to advance their agenda while disregarding the harm to individuals and society.

Abuse Example 1

Abuse benefits:  Abuse victims change their behavior and bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.  Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.  Financial resources are often something abusers work on transferring from their targets to themselves (Bancroft 155-156).

Abuse tactic:  Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”.

Media example:  The highest status people in our culture tend to be doctors, lawyers, professors, executives, politicians, sports figures and entertainers (Dwyer 19).  Some of these people are at least well-educated, but many have no more knowledge or ability about most issues than we do.  When people are catered to as though they are of a higher status than the common person, they often feel entitled to treat us as inferior and expect us to defer to their authority (Dwyer 19).

News content producers can be an example of media using their sense of entitlement and branding skills to claim authority they have not really earned.  Before the 1970s, news programs were offered as a public service and run at a loss to the station in exchange for the right to use bandwidth on the limited public airwaves.  Released from that obligation, many news programs still claim the image of public service while earning large profits by featuring “sensational, sentimental or dramatic” stories that will attract mass audiences for their advertisers (Silverblatt et al 119).  In return for their airwaves generating profits for media companies, the public gains at best only low-quality entertainment disguised as news, and possibly manipulation, abuse and ill health.

Some prominent social media companies have recently declared themselves to be authorities on objective truth, supposedly in the service of their users, who they see as not as qualified to judge as their own self-declared technocracy.  They employ “fact checkers” to distinguish between beneficial and harmful content.  A couple of the areas they recently claim special authority on are Constitutional law and medicine (Lucas, “Does Section 230’s…”).  When a technocracy was originally considered for the United States in the 20th century, sufficiently wise people, such as social scientists, religious leaders, the military, the police, Congress and the FTC were considered as members (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Investigative journalists have been trying to investigate today’s new technocracy.  In documenting the harsh working conditions of Facebook content moderators, journalist Casey Newton found that most of Facebook’s content moderators are employees of outside contractors.  At one facility in Phoenix, content moderators are paid $28,800 per year as compared to the average Facebook employee compensation of $240,000 (Newton).  Facebook periodically audits the contract workers for accuracy, with accuracy defined as what Facebook decides it is.  It is unclear what the educational qualifications are to be a contracted content moderator or a Facebook employed auditor (Newton).

Abuse Example 2:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.

Abuse tactic:  Provoking inappropriate guilt.

Media example:  Netflix aired a documentary showing walruses falling to their deaths from a cliff, claiming the deaths were caused by climate change.  In actuality, the falling walruses were chased by polar bears, and possibly were even frightened by the film crew’s disturbing presence in the area and noisy equipment (Foster).  Netflix gained the benefit of appearing to be socially responsible while directing attention away from their own possible culpability.  As professor of space architecture and author Larry Bell commented in Forbes, phenomena that we used to be taught were natural, such as earthquakes, “hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzard cold weather conditions and such” are now our fault and we are pressured to feel guilty (Bell).

Many celebrities have shared mis-identified fire photos on social media, claiming they are current and from the Amazon rain forest, when they were sometimes not current and taken somewhere else (Richardson).  Perhaps they feel less guilty about their lifestyles for spreading these often unverified messages, while at the same time enjoying social approval from their peers without having to actually sacrifice anything.  One of the privileges abusers regularly enjoy is to feel better while others around them feel worse (Bancroft 31).

What is the cost to mental health of this constant bombardment of what some affix the label “tragedy porn”?  Therapy for eco-anxiety is a prominent field of mental health with over 120 practitioners known as far back as 2008 (Bell).  Sufferers of eco-anxiety have reported shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, fatigue, overeating, bulimia, depression and alcoholism (Bell).  96% of respondents of one study on relatively affluent Americans claimed that eco-anxiety changed their ideas about having children, 6% even going so far as to regret the ones they already have (Carrington).  What is it like for a child to grow up as a regret?  In one case a seven-month old baby is going to have to find out what it’s like to live through a gunshot wound in the chest as the only survivor of an Argentinian family killed in a murder-suicide pact apparently precipitated by eco-anxiety (Sacks).

Children and adults alike have been taunted with threats that important cultural traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas will be ruined or cancelled because of climate change (Watts).  This could be interpreted as doubling down on the effort to induce poor mental health in viewers because religion is one of the well-known weapons against depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, suicidal behavior and poor physical health (Whitley).  Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, not a religious one, but gratitude is something both atheists and theists alike can embrace. However, too much gratitude is not good for the advertising business.  If people get too satisfied with what they already have, they won’t buy as many new things.  The idea that products should constantly be updated in appearance to make old versions obsolete or deliberately made not to last very long became mainstream by the middle of the 20th century in the United States (Hine 66).  The media likes to encourage us to buy unnecessary products  while at the same time promoting guilt in us because excess consumption is bad for the environment.  That behavior results in a triple win for the media/entertainment industry and their advertising clients – they sell more products, appear to be socially responsible for infiltrating our entertainment with guilt messages, and evade accountability for their own environmental misdeeds.

Abuse Example 3:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.

Abuse tactics: Getting other people to pressure you, discrediting, spreading rumors, ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs and sarcasm.

Media example:  Because they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media corporations such as Facebook and Twitter maintain they are not liable for the actions of their users (“Does Section 230’s…”).  At the same time, they can allow content they approve of and ban content they don’t approve of, boost content they favor and restrict content they disfavor, and promote or suppress users in an equivalent manner.  In that way they can discredit, spread rumors, bully, harass or otherwise pressure whoever they choose by selectively enforcing speech, while avoiding proposed regulation of this privilege by manipulating public opinion to vote for whoever is unlikely to impose regulations that would reduce their technocratic control (“Does Section 230’s…”).

Sophisticated advertisers know what anxieties, fears and insecurities their target audiences are prone to, and they know how to trigger them at will and then offer products and ideas as solutions to the uncomfortable feelings that result (Silverblatt et al 291).  Facebook ran a test in 2012 to see if they could go beyond mere curation and actually prompt the type of content users post on their platform by manipulating people’s moods (Meyer).  They succeeded, and if there was ever any doubt, everyone now knows that they have the power to recruit their users into unconsciously propagating the media’s agendas and those of their advertisers.  Fear and anxiety have been known to be aids to selling products for a long time (Packard 48, 58-59, 221-223).  When Vance Packard published his book The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, the techniques advertisers studied to appeal to our fears and anxieties were still new to the public (Hine 28).  Even though the methods are no longer new, they still work as the Facebook experiment demonstrates (Meyer).  There are a number of possible health related side effects resulting from induced fear and anxiety, including fevers, vomiting, impotence, diarrhea, increased heart rate, fatigue, nausea, sleep problems, reduced ability to fight infections, heart disease, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse, social dysfunction and suicidal thoughts (Dyer 33, 197-198, Leonard).

Even with the available legal remedies, there is a limited amount that can be done for a victim of physical or mental abuse unless they decide to stop accepting the abuse and take action to use what help is available to assist in freeing themselves.  Many of the harmful mental and physical effects of media can be overcome if individuals make the decision to reclaim their agency and follow up with suitable action.  Abused individuals and abused media viewers are groomed in a similar manner with deceptive seductive techniques that hide the true intent of the abuser.  Abuse and grooming gradually break down the resistance and health of the target to make the target less able to fight and break free from bondage.

Dangerous and addictive products that are regulated as “vice” products perhaps provide a precedent for the legal system and government agencies to regulate abusive media in a similar manner.  “Vice” products are related to activities that are not considered healthy or moral and whose use is controlled to some extent by age-related or other restrictions (Trager 547).  Categories of “vice” products currently include alcohol, tobacco, hookahs, e-cigarettes, drugs, gambling, sexually explicit material, firearms and marijuana (Trager 547, 550).  In the past some of the methods of combating the harm caused by the misuse of these products has taken the form of public service messages and warning labels.  The battle lines which government agencies and commercial interests navigate as they both attempt to advance their opposing goals is constantly in flux, with states and local jurisdictions having a lot of leeway to tighten or loosen regulations on vice products (Trager et al 542-555).  If the media is going to intentionally or negligently affect our health, I think a case can be made for providing media literacy information content on their channels in lieu of labeling on media products in exchange for the benefits their corporate owners enjoy at the public’s expense.

Some forms of media regulation have been allowed by Federal government agencies and the courts in the past to promote the ability of citizens to make informed choices about their health, welfare and the consumption of products and ideas.  Here are a few examples of past attempts by the FCC.

From 1949-1989 the Fairness Doctrine required broadcast stations to provide programming that presented diverse views on controversial topics of public importance (Trager et al 408).

The personal attack rule required broadcasters to provide a rebuttal forum for the subjects of an-air attacks on their “integrity, honesty, or character”.  Because the personal attack rule did not apply to public officials, it had limited power to limit one-sided attacks.  Even that protection for private individuals was eliminated in 2000 (Trager et al 409).

Under the political editorial rule, private broadcasters were required to allow legally qualified candidates for public office rebuttal time in response to editorials aired either against the candidate or in favor of a rival.  The political editorial rule also ended in 2000 (Trager et al 409).  Public broadcasters are not allowed to endorse a candidate but can editorialize on public issues (Trager et al 409), some of which could affect the livelihoods of those who work for public broadcasters and in that case could be one-sided and self-serving.  The taxpayers who fund a portion of public broadcasting involuntarily are afforded no opportunity to rebut (Trager et al 417).

Net neutrality was the requirement for internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally and not set up paid priority service for preferred content (Traeger et al 423).  Net neutrality was repealed in 2018 (Morton). Some states have started to create their own net neutrality legislation since it no longer exists at the Federal level (Morton).

There was a time when the four above regulations were considered acceptable under the First Amendment.  The First Amendment has not yet changed – not the text of it anyway.  I suggest that as a country we consider bringing some regulations back, as they are possible hedges against the technocracy gaining further power over us and increasing their ability to abuse.

Works Cited

Bancroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Berkeley Books. 2002.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Bell, Larry. “Got Problems? Blame Global Warming.” Forbes, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/03/29/got-problems-blame-global-warming/?sh=55e40cca4e3e. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Carrington, Damian. “Climate ‘apocalypse’ fears stopping people having children – study.” Guardian News & Media Limited, 2020, www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/27/climate-apocalypse-fears-stopping-people-having-children-study. Accessed 17 December 2020.

“Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”. U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 2020, www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/10/does-section-230-s-sweeping-immunity-enable-big-tech-bad-behavior, Accessed 19 December 2020.

Dyer, Dr. Wayne W. Pulling Your Own Strings. Avon Books, 1978.

Foster, Ally. “Allegations Netflix film crew lied about what caused mass walrus deaths.” Nationwide News Pty Limited Copyright, 2019, www.news.com.au/technology/environment/natural-wonders/allegations-netflix-film-crew-lied-about-what-caused-mass-walrus-deaths/news-story/15b405e0e6f4f3558168d7713fd379f1. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Hine, Thomas. Populuxe: From Tailfins and TV Dinners To Barbie Dolls and Fallout Shelters. MJF Books, 1986 and 1999.

“Is Rape Culture Real? Let’s Take A Look At The Evidence.” Fight the New Drug, Inc., 2020, fightthenewdrug.org/is-rape-culture-real-lets-look-at-evidence/. Accessed 18 December 2020.

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Lucas, Fred. “6 Takeaways as Facebook, Twitter CEOs Testify at Senate Hearing.” The Heritage Foundation, 2020, www.dailysignal.com/2020/11/17/6-takeaways-as-facebook-twitter-ceos-testify-at-senate-hearing/. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Meyer, Robinson. “Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment.” The Atlantic, 2014, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Morton, Heather. “Net Neutrality 2020 Legislation.” NCSL, 2020, www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/net-neutrality-2020-legislation.aspx. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Newton, Casey. “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America.” Vox Media, 2019, www.theverge.com/2019/2/25/18229714/cognizant-facebook-content-moderator-interviews-trauma-working-conditions-arizona. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Packard, Vance. The Hidden Persuaders. Pocket Books, Inc., 1957.

Press, Gil. “A Very Short History Of The Internet And The Web.” Forbes, 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2015/01/02/a-very-short-history-of-the-internet-and-the-web-2/?sh=754f19137a4e. Accessed 20 December 2020.

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“Report international scams online!” International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), 2020, econsumer.gov/#crnt. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Richardson, Valerie. “Celebrities get fact-checked after sharing fake photos of Amazon rainforest fire.” Washington Times, 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/aug/26/macron-madonna-dicaprio-share-fake-photos-amazon-r/. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Sacks, Ethan. “Seven-month-old baby survives shot to chest in parents’ murder-suicide pact blamed on global warming.” New York Daily News, 2010, www.nydailynews.com/news/world/seven-month-old-baby-survives-shot-chest-parents-murder-suicide-pact-blamed-global-warming-article-1.176034. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Taylor, Dr. Jim. “Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/popular-culture-too-much-time-our-hands. Accessed 15 December 2020.

—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.

“The History of FDA’s Fight for Consumer Protection and Public Health.” Food and Drug Administration, 2018, www.fda.gov/about-fda/history-fdas-fight-consumer-protection-and-public-health. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Watts, Anthony. “Future Holiday Hell – A Repeating Pattern of Climate Change Doomerism.” The Heartland Institute, 2020, climaterealism.com/2020/11/future-holiday-hell-a-repeating-pattern-of-climate-change-doomerism/. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Whitley, Dr. Rob, “Religion and Mental Health: What Is the Link?” Psychology Today, 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201712/religion-and-mental-health-what-is-the-link. Accessed 18 December 2020.

Pinterest Board I Use To Collect Sources for Advertising and Marketing Degree Work

Media Analysis – lots and lots and lots and lots of sources on related topics. Some of which I have used, some of which I haven’t.

Blog Posts I Have Written On Related Topics

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/4051-2/.

—. “The Snapchat Indecency Lawsuit”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/snapchat-indecency-lawsuit/.

—. “Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/attempting-protect-vulnerable-violence/.

—. “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/3534-2/.

—. “Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/political-ads-about-political-ads-and-trolling/.

—. “Pride & Prejudice: Light Holiday Entertainment?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/pride-prejudice-light-holiday-entertainment/.

—. “The Spiral of Silence Theory”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/the-spiral-of-silence-theory/.

—. “Self-help techniques for depression”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2018, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/2758-2/.

—. “A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-comparison-between-emotional-abuse-and-saul-alinskys-rules-for-radicals/.

—. “My New Planner Layout”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/my-new-planner-layout/.

—. “Book Review: “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land) – Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing With Revenge” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/book-review-by-dr-laura-schlessinger/.

—. “Book Review: ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men’”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/why-does-he-do-that-inside-the-minds-of-angry-and-controlling-men/.

—. “Creative Arts Fellowship at DaySpring School of the Arts”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/creative-arts-fellowship-at-dayspring-school-of-the-arts/.

—. “A plea for the humane treatment of Wiggles the pet starling”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2014, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-plea-for-the-humane-treatment-of-wiggles-the-pet-starling/.

The Snapchat Indecency Lawsuit

Everyone I know is probably getting tired of me saying that we have to be wary of the communication technology we use. A lot of it looks like it has a beneficial purpose on the surface but is something else when you dig into it a little deeper. I am a heavy user of social media and technology for marketing purposes so rather than stop using it I’m trying to be more careful about the amount of exposure I have and the type of exposure. I have never used Snapchat. For my homework I had to write about an indecency lawsuit against Snapchat so had to quickly read about how it works and what it does. It is widely believed in some circles that large segments of leaders in media, culture and business are constantly looking for ways to groom minor children for sexual exploitation. Do you agree or disagree?  This paper has been graded but I didn’t change anything before publishing. I am not an attorney or law student, I am a Marketing and Advertising Communications major.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
29 November 2020

The Snapchat Indecency Lawsuit

Snapchat is a messaging app that also features paid advertising and content reformatted and republished from other information providers, known as Discovery partners.  When Discover first launched, Snapchat stated on its blog that the Discover partners would be editors and artists who are “world-class leaders” providing “important” content, superior to social media which shows only what is “most recent or most popular” (Team Snapchat).

The Discover feature of Snapchat generated a lot of criticism when it was new.  Among other complaints, a lot of users disliked the Discover content being featured prominently in the display and being difficult to ignore if one was using the app for other purposes such as chatting or photo sharing (Dredge).  Complaints about sexually offensive material being pushed to minors led to a class action lawsuit against Snapchat citing violations of Sections 230 and 231 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in addition to other violations of State consumer law (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).  Here is a listing of the five causes of action in the complaint (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.):

  1. Violations of Unfair Business Practices Act [Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code § 17200]
  2. Negligence
  3. Violations of 47 U.S.C. §230
  4. Unjust Enrichment
  5. Injunctive Relief

At the time of the lawsuit, around 23 percent of users of Snapchat were between the ages of 13-17 (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).  Snapchat was not accused of singling out underage users to push sexually oriented content to, rather the lawsuit was based on failing to warn users about content that was inappropriate for minors and failing to provide a way to filter out unwanted adult-oriented sexual content (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).

Here are some titles of sampled “important” articles that “world class” editors and artists selected for their users that were alleged by the plaintiffs to violate decency and consumer laws:

  • “10 Things He Thinks When He Can’t Make You Orgasm”
  • “F#ck Buddies Talk About How They Kept It Casual”
  • “23 Pictures That Are Too Real If You’ve Ever Had Sex With A Penis”

In the past, marketers have been criticized for using cute animal mascots to make beer brands more appealing to minors while claiming that they are only marketing to people who are old enough to legally consume the product (Andrews, Newman).  It was alleged in the Snapchat lawsuit that some of the images accompanying the offending articles appealed to kids by showing Disney characters paired with sexually suggestive captions and an illustration showing two dolls in a dollhouse engaging in sexual intercourse (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).  In the opinion of the plaintiffs, such images appear to be “directly marketed to minors based on the use of cartoons, childhood relatable images, and very young looking models” (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).

Indecent material can be defined in different ways.  The Supreme Court considers indecent material to be “nonconformance with accepted standards of morality” (Trager et al 457).  To the FCC, indecency consists of “sexual expression and expletives” that are deemed harmful to children and therefore prohibited on broadcast television and radio at times of the day when children are likely to be exposed (Trager et al 442, 456).

By selecting and curating content, it could be argued that Snapchat took on the role of information content provider.  A Snapchat spokesperson said that “Our Discover partners have editorial independence…” (Gardner).  Snapchat may want to give the impression that the discover partners are truly independent but they can be de-platformed instantly if the CEO does not like the content they provided, as former Discover partner Yahoo found out (Flynn).

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 puts most of the burden for avoiding offensive non-broadcast content on the end user, or the parents or guardians of the end user if the person is a minor (47 U.S. Code…).  The law distinguishes between an interactive computer service, which is a passive tool for users to publish and consume the content they choose, and an information content provider that selects material for distribution (47 U.S. Code…).

However, I think a case can be made that Snapchat had a duty to warn.  Section 230 subsection D, Obligations of interactive computer service, states (47 U.S. Code…):

“A provider of interactive computer service shall, at the time of entering an agreement with a customer for the provision of interactive computer service and in a manner deemed appropriate by the provider, notify such customer that parental control protections (such as computer hardware, software, or filtering services) are commercially available that may assist the customer in limiting access to material that is harmful to minors. Such notice shall identify, or provide the customer with access to information identifying, current providers of such protections.”

Snapchat does not allow users under the age of 13, and asks for birth dates during the signup process, so they knew that minors were using their app (Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc.).  In that light, I think it could be argued that Snapchat was at best negligent because of their following actions:

  • Deliberately choosing brands such as Cosmopolitan, MTV, Comedy Central and Vice to provide content
  • Pushing the content headlines by making them part of the user interface so that everyone sees them without seeking them out
  • Pushing the content headlines unfiltered by age
  • Combining sexual content with images that appeal to children
  • Dishonesty about their editorial goals and standards for the Discover content

Works Cited

Andrews, Robert M. “Teetotaler Thurmond Raps Spuds MacKenzie Beer Promotion.” The Associated Press, 1987, apnews.com/article/03e7a81bdc59e057aa34abefeaa82cce. Accessed 29 November 2020.

Doe, John vs. Snapchat, Inc. 2:16-cv-04955. 2016. www.scribd.com/document/317726589/Snapchat-lawsuit. Accessed 28 November 2020.

Dredge, Stuart. “Snapchat redesign promotes Discover – but some users are unhappy”. Guardian News & Media Limited, 2015, www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/14/snapchat-redesign-discover-partners-stories. Accessed 29 November 2020.

Flynn, Kerry. “Snapchat Discover One Year Later: How 23 Media Companies Are Building Stories For Evan Spiegel.”  IBTimes LLC., 2016,
www.ibtimes.com/snapchat-discover-one-year-later-how-23-media-companies-are-building-stories-evan-2281851. Accessed 29 November 2020.

“47 U.S. Code § 230 – Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material.” Legal Information Institute, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230. Accessed 29 November 2020.

Gardner, Eriq. “Snapchat Sued for Exposing Kids to Media Partners’ ‘Sexually Offensive Content’.” The Hollywood Reporter, 2016, www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/snapchat-sued-exposing-kids-media-909096. Accessed 28 November 2020.

Newman, Andrew Adam. “Youngsters Enjoy Beer Ads, Arousing Industry’s Critics.” The New York Times Company, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/02/13/business/media/youngsters-enjoy-beer-ads-arousing-industrys-critics.html. Accessed 29 November 2020.

Team Snapchat, “Introducing Discover.” Snap Inc., 2015, www.snap.com/en-US/news/post/introducing-discover/. Accessed 29 November 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations

The following paper was turned in last night for my Media Organization Regulations class at Webster University. It is not graded yet. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
1 November 2020

Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations

Freedom of expression is the right to disagree, to assemble in protest of laws and to publish and disseminate opinions, ideas and beliefs (Baran and Davis, 64-65).  Freedom of expression is considered central to democratic self-government and is therefore described, though not in those exact words (“Bill of Rights…”), in the Bill of Rights (Baran and Davis, 64-65).  In 1927, the Supreme Court found against the plaintiff in the case Whitney v. California, a ruling that was overturned in 1969 (Belpedio).  This case was heard to decide whether or not the arrest and conviction of a Communist political activist in 1919 was in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Legal Information Institute).  Part of the written opinion of Justice Louis Brandeis caused some to question why he voted against the plaintiff in Whitney v. California since his defense of freedom of expression was eloquent and widely influential (Belpedio).  Justice Brandeis’ words have been interpreted as a “virtual declaration of absolute free speech” (Belpedio).

A present-day issue that Justice Brandeis illuminated in his prescient comments from 1927 is the regulation of speech by corporations that are popularly known as “Big Tech” (“Does Section 230’s…”). On October 28, 2020, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on current internet law and whether or not it is sufficient in the present day to ensure the free exchange of ideas in the online environment controlled by Google, Twitter and Facebook (“Does Section 230’s…”).

A study by the Pew Research Center found that as of 2018, social media had surpassed print newspapers as a source of news, accounting for 20% of the news audience (Shearer).  The study also reports that 33% of adults in the U.S. consume news content from online web sites (Shearer).  Since Google is the largest provider of internet search results, with a nearly 88% market share in the United States (StatCounter), having influence over potentially nearly 43% of all news content puts these three big tech companies in powerful positions.  In a 2016 TED talk, referring to the platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon stated “… we do know that journalism, activism and public debate are being silenced in the effort to stamp out extremist speech.  So with these companies having so much power over the public discourse, they need to be held accountable” (MacKinnon). YouTube is owned by Google LLC (YouTube).

Concerns about the freedom of expression in search results and within social media platforms in the face of this power have been growing in recent history.  On its web page “Digital Bill of Rights”, the stance of Adbusters, a nonprofit network of artists and activists declare that “It is high time that digital citizens, in the face of rampant techno-tyranny, openly mount a resistance to take back our mental space by force” (Adbusters “Digital Bill of Rights”).  73% of U.S. adults now suspect that social media companies intentionally block political content that they don’t want users to see (Vogels et al).

The Big Tech companies that the Senate investigated on October 28, 2020 are not legally required to allow their users rights as described in the First Amendment, which restrains government action only (Rosen).  The law that the recent Senate hearing choose to focus on is Section 230 of Communications Decency Act (DCA) of 1996 (“Does Section 230’s…”).  Section 230 does not address whether or not the platforms can legally restrict political opinions – it addresses immunity from lawsuits on other matters such as libel, because the platforms claim they do not influence content (Trager 210).  It appears that it could be argued Section 230 immunity should not be applied to Facebook, Google and Twitter because they do “interact directly with content” in an attempt to cultivate attitudes to make the culture of the United States more like Europe (Rosen, Trager 210).  In Europe, safety and propriety are valued more than freedom (Rosen) while the culture of the United States accepts more risks.  In the words of Justice Brandeis, “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.  They valued liberty both as an end and as a means.  They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty” (Baran and Davis 65).

Users who are attracted by the promise of free speech have been turning to alternative platforms that are perceived to be less restrictive than the three tech companies that the Senate Hearing examined.  Parler appeals to unhappy Twitter users by claiming to offer an environment with more freedom and corporate accountability (Parler).  Articles suggesting alternatives to Google and Facebook describe platforms that users concerned about data mining and privacy issues can try out (Broida, Taylor).

The movie industry’s voluntary Hays Code, which was in effect from 1934-1965 was intended to reduce public outrage and stave off possible future government regulation of motion picture content (Hays Code).  The power of the medium of television and its effect on violence in children led to the threat of possible increased government regulation and in turn self-regulation by the industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Baran and Davis 166-167).  The Big Tech companies might choose in the future to follow the lead of the movie and television industries that proceeded them and do more self-policing in order to better align their European-inspired standards to the expectations of the American public.

Works Cited

Adbusters. “Digital Bill of Rights”. 1989-2020, www.adbusters.org/articles-coded/digital-bill-of-rights, Accessed 1 November 2020.

—. “Mind Journey #11”. 1989-2020, featured.adbusters.org/mindjourney/011/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

—. “‘The Social Dilemma’ director hopes to spark a movement” 1989-2020, www.adbusters.org/the-pulse/the-social-dilemma-director-hopes-to-spark-a-movement, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Belpedio, James. “Whitney v. California (1927)”. The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009, mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/263/whitney-v-california, Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Bill of Rights of the United States of America (1791).” Bill of Rights Institute, 2020, billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. Accessed 26 October 2020.

Broida, Rick. “Social-media alternatives to Facebook.” CNET, 2018, www.cnet.com/how-to/social-media-alternatives-to-facebook/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”. U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 2020, www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/10/does-section-230-s-sweeping-immunity-enable-big-tech-bad-behavior, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Greenwald, Glenn. “Article on Joe and Hunter Biden Censored By The Intercept”. Glenn Greenwald, 2020, greenwald.substack.com/p/article-on-joe-and-hunter-biden-censored, Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Hays code.” Siteseen Limited, 2017-2018, www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/hays-code.htm. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Legal Information Institute. “WHITNEY v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA”. Cornell Law School, 2020, www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/274/357, Accessed 1 November 2020.

MacKinnon, Rebecca. “We can fight terror without sacrificing our rights.” TED Conferences, LLC., June 2016, www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_mackinnon_we_can_fight_terror_without_sacrificing_our_rights/transcript. Accessed 1 November 2020.

“Parler”. Parler, Inc., 2020, www.parler.com/auth/access. Accessed 1 November 2020.

Rosen, Jeffrey. “The Deciders: The Future of Free Speech in a Digital World”. Harvard Kennedy School Shorestien Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. 2016, shorensteincenter.org/jeffrey-rosen-future-of-free-speech-in-a-digital-world/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Shearer, Elisa. “Social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source”. Pew Research Center, 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/social-media-outpaces-print-newspapers-in-the-u-s-as-a-news-source/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

StatCounter. “Search Engine Market Share in United States Of America Sept 2019 – Sept 2020”. October 2020, gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share/all/united-states-of-america, Accessed 1 November 2020.

Taylor, Sven. “Alternatives to Google Products”. Restore Privacy, LLC, 2019, restoreprivacy.com/google-alternatives/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Vogels, Emily A., Andrew Perrin and Monica Anderson. “Most Americans Think Social Media Sites Censor Political Viewpoints”. Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/08/19/most-americans-think-social-media-sites-censor-political-viewpoints/, Accessed 1 November 2020.

YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/. Accessed 1 November 2020.

 

If you want to delve deeper into this and related topics, I have links to a lot more resources on a Pinterest Board: Media Analysis: Communications and the Law

Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication

The first part of this post is a homework assignment for Strategic Communications Applications class in which I summarize the barriers to government and citizen communication as stated in our textbook, “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”. The second section is my own commentary which includes a lot of my opinion, speculation, and things I’d like the opportunity to delve into further to either prove or disprove. What do you think? Is your government a help to your life, a deadweight on your progress, or a mixture of both?

In our textbook are listed many challenges to successful two-way communication between citizens and government (Broom and Sha 356-366).

1. The government is large and complex with many bureaucratic layers that are difficult and time consuming to navigate.

2. Citizens expectations of what services government should provide keep expanding.

3. There is suspicion about the ethics of the entire profession of public relations and the governments that employ them.

4. Actual incidents of government misinformation have occurred, intentional or just not thorough enough, interpreted as lies or spin, such as in the Iraq war buildup.

5. There is a lot of citizen apathy.

6. There is often hostility of legislators to the public relations profession for budget and other reasons, sometimes causing practitioners to choose other areas of expertise.

7. A lack of journalists to cover government activity thoroughly.

8. When it comes to distributing information, government and media often have different agendas.

9. The job of informing the public is too large for anyone to do well.

10. Unlike a business with a more limited scope, a government has to attempt to please everyone rather than cater to one public in particular.

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

My Further Commentary

Here are some factors I’ve considered that the book did not mention, based partly on my own opinion, perceptions and experiences. I’ll put in any links and citations I can find as I go, exploring ideas that I can bolster with other sources.

A. Some members of government agencies represent their departments poorly and abuse their power over citizens, building mistrust. This apparently is what happened to my husband and I when we started putting in a rain garden to help cope with excess storm water. I documented all that in these two blog posts of mine and my final project for this course, Strategic Communications Applications, will partly be an attempt to analyze and find motivation for these actions against us.

B. News media is no longer the watchdog over government that it once was, due to more activist news coverage (Broom and Sha 365), or was perceived to have been. There is more than one reason for this in my opinion.

    • 1. Because traditional “old media” institutions are losing revenue to other channels, they are concentrating more on their social media channels. News on social media tends to be less informative, more opinion based, less accurate, and posted by journalists who are less constrained by ethics or standards than in the past (“The Impact of…”). Much content is only created to get views and clicks in order to sell ads and does not need to have much substance or even be true in order to meet the goals of the media organizations who publish it (Johnstone).
    • 2. Investigative journalism about government takes a lot of time and money to produce, and available money and staff are more limited (Grieco). Journalists can get stories with less time and effort by just repeating statements from sources without confirming or investigating (Johnstone).
        “Journalists wanted information to be easily available, yet resented the men and women who made it available. By the mid twentieth century, journalists were dependent on PR practitioners for a large percentage of the stories appearing in newspapers. But admitting their dependence would shatter cherished ideals. Journalists were proud of their ability to uncover stories, verify details, and expose sham. Thus, they were unlikely to admit their dependence, lack of skepticism, failure to verify, and failure to expose every sham.” – Delorme and Fedler, 2003. (Broom and Sha, 226)
    • 3. The attention span of the average person in our country is going down and there is less demand for in-depth stories with enough information to truly be informed (Lords).
    • 4. Issues related to the size and function of government are politicized. The personal philosophy of journalists and companies that employ them is more likely to follow their political interests rather than the well-being of citizens than in the past (“The Impact of…”).
    • 5. The media has less and less credibility with citizens because of selective reporting, staging and manipulating events in order to have a story that they want to be able to report, un-named sources that may or may not even exist and outright fabrication (“The Impact of…”, Johnstone). There are bi-partisan examples of this to be found. I’ll post one example each from two different political sides here for examination.

      The Pew Research Center measures the public’s attitudes toward both media and government and finds that news coverage about government is evaluated and consumed very differently according to political affiliation (Jurkowitz, et al).

    • 6. Many media institutions and personalities engage in “gaslighting”, similar to what is often done to the victim in abusive domestic relationships. Media, both entertainment and what is presented as “news” is permeated with attempts to make a lot of people who have done nothing wrong and have accurate and reasonable perceptions of reality to feel ridiculed and ostracized (Battaglio). If this is continued, the “Spiral of Silence” theory posits that certain ideas disappear from public discourse over time (Baran and Davis 268). Our form of government is based on the premise that people should be free to discuss issues in order to make the most rational choice, but there are many forces trying to restrict certain information from being discussed in public (Bufkin, Farrah, Gordon, OyperG, Poulakidakos, Sherr).

      For example in 2013 I was literally holding in my hand a letter from my insurance company saying that my insurance was cancelled when an “entertainment” podcast I was listening to was ridiculing people who claimed that their insurance was cancelled, claiming we were liars trying to fool people. This was a podcast that I had a paid subscription to. I sent a scan of my rejection letter to the podcast host along with a cancellation of my subscription to the podcast. The host’s response was to call me stupid and say I was making it up. That’s an example of gaslighting and DARVO, Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender, a tactic that abusive domestic partners and other abusers use to keep their victims under coercive control (Harsey, Zurbriggen and Freyd, 644). While the majority of media outlets were trying to deny that there were cancellations happening, a web site with Twitter account was set up for people to send pictures of their cancellation letters for publication (Fennell). Twitter shut that account down, then reinstated it later after public outrage (Fennell). Since I did see my letter on that web site and Twitter account and it was unaltered from what I sent them, I judged the things they were posting to be credible unless I was presented with information indicating otherwise. So even in a society where there is supposed to be freedom of speech and the government has limited ability to censor if the constitution is followed, corporations can take political stances and if they don’t want certain things known they can do a lot to censor information that isn’t in their interests (OyperG, Fennell, Bufkin). If we rely for information on a corporation that is in the business of news or providing a communication platform, we can’t assume without investigating that we are getting true or complete information about any issue. While media corporations sometimes have an agenda that is in opposition to a government (Broom and Sha 365), at other times they can be complicit (Woodruff). Citizens must investigate for themselves to try to determine the truth to the best of their ability, and many do not have the time or interest and so remain poorly informed (Broom and Sha 356-366, Poulakidakos 373).

TO BE CONTINUED…

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Bufkin, Ellie, “Twitter Users Appalled by Bias and Censorship Plan Boycott.” Townhall.com/Salem Media, 2020, https://townhall.com/tipsheet/elliebufkin/2020/06/24/conservatives-appalled-by-bias-and-censorship-plan-twitter-boycott-n2571231. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Fennell, “Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Account Critical of Obamacare.” IndustryDive, 2013, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/twitter-suspends-then-reinstates-account-critical-obamacare. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Johnstone, Caitlin. “‘Confirmed’ Is a Meaningless Word In MSM News Reporting.” Consortiumnews, 2020, consortiumnews.com/2020/09/27/confirmed-is-a-meaningless-word-in-msm-news-reporting/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Jurkowitz, Mark et al. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Lords, Shannon, “As Attention Spans Get Shorter, Content Gets Even Shorter – What Would Ken Burns Do?” Advertising Week, 2020, https://www.advertisingweek360.com/attention-spans-get-shorter-content-gets-shorter-ken-burns/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

OyperG, “NBC Goes Mask Off – Reveals Twitter Censorship Methods After Devastating Hack.” Bitcoin Warrior, 2020, bitcoinwarrior.net/2020/07/nbc-goes-mask-off-reveals-twitter-censorship-methods-after-devastating-hack/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Sherr, Ian. “How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ).” CNET, 2016, www.cnet.com/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“Taliban Denies CBS Claim of Endorsing Trump Reelection.” Tasnim News Agency, 2020, www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/10/11/2367327/taliban-denies-cbs-claim-of-endorsing-trump-reelection. Accessed 11 October 2020.

“The Impact Of Social Media On News and Journalism.” New York Film Academy, 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/social-media-in-journalism/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Woodruff, Betsy. “Democrat Rep: Insurance Cancellation Letters Should Have Just Said Things Are Getting Better.” National Review, 2013, www.nationalreview.com/corner/democrat-rep-insurance-cancellation-letters-should-have-just-said-things-are-getting/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

I also put some resources I’ve collected as I work on my degree on this Pinterest board:

https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/media-analysis/

Social Media at the Time of the American Revolution

No I’m not talking about the revolution that is being attempted in the US right now, I’m talking about the 1770s. Here is another history themed homework assignment that I enjoyed writing. What social media tools would I recommend if I could go back in time and be a consultant to Samuel Adams and friends?

“Samuel Adams and fellow revolutionaries used many techniques to achieve support for the United States Revolutionary War. With the use of “pen, platform, pulpit, staged events, symbols, news tips, and political organization”, these revolutionaries used events, manufactured if necessary, to appeal to and engage the senses of their hoped-for compatriots in the fight for independence from England (Broom and Sha 75). In the imaginary world of this assignment, I’m a time-traveling public relations consultant with the power to bring today’s social media tools to Sam Adams and the revolutionaries to help them win their campaign.

I’m going to recommend to Samuel Adams that he should add social media to the tools he is already using to make communication over long distances easier, cheaper, and less risky, with the potential to reach many more publics than presently. Some of the acts described below were considered by the British administration of the time to be treasonous and potentially punishable by death (Thernstrom 137), so the network and devices that Adams and his followers use will have to be secure from British spying.

Pen
The pamphlet “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was a powerful piece of writing in favor of revolution that had a circulation of more than 100,000 copies throughout the colonies (Broom and Sha 76). Paine argued for independence with some fiery language, but the pragmatic argument that the colonies needed to be independent to form alliances with other nations in order to get assistance in fighting the British forces was considered the most persuasive (Thernstrom 143).

Thomas Paine and other eloquent and persuasive writers of their time would benefit from having their own blogs to publicize their content and collect subscribers so that the contact information can be shared with members of the revolutionary movement who are planning events and protests. Since readings of Common Sense were popular in taverns and coffee houses of the time (Thernstrom 143), audio and video presentations of this material that are shareable on social media will increase the reach tremendously. Most colonists at this time were not literate (Bitter 21), but would be able to consume videos and podcasts with the right receiving equipment.

Platform
A platform is easier to remember and rally around if it’s short and resonates with the public. “Taxation without representation is tyranny” is the well known slogan that describes the platform of the revolutionaries (Broom and Sha 76).

A graphic with a unifying image, such as the Liberty Tree, with this slogan should be prepared to use on social media outlets as a profile picture, header graphic, avatar image and any other identifying graphics that you need to reinforce your brand on social media platforms.

Pulpit
The British parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774 which opened some additional areas of North America up to colonial American settlers, but with French law presiding and Catholic churches enjoying advantages over Protestant churches. Protestants were the majority of colonists and anti-Catholic feeling added more resentment against the British imperial government (Thernstrom 139). A further religious-based rift between Britain and America was widened by the Great Awakening, a renewal of Christian fervor in the colonies that made the old country seem more decadent and therefore less desirable to the colonists in comparison (Thernstrom 145).

Christian and Biblical references can be inserted when appropriate into communications to keep emphasizing the perceived moral superiority of the new society that is being created. Revolution-minded colonists did not shy away from including Biblical allegories and passages on items such as flags and needlework (“Religion and the…”), and such images could be adopted into memes or other sharable graphics. Ministers played a great role in propagating the idea of revolution against the British as a righteous cause (“Religion and the…”), and therefore making sermons available as shareable audio and video presentations could be very advantageous.

Staged Events
A provocative event can capture the attention of many members of the public who were otherwise indifferent (Broom and Sha 76). The Boston Tea Party was an event that could be considered staged. In all the other colonies except Massachusetts, ships carrying British Tea turned back when confronted by colonists who opposed the tea act because they had been persuaded by colonial tea wholesalers that it was dangerous for future liberty to grant a tea monopoly to the English East India tea company (Thernstrom 138). The Massachusetts Governor did not want to back down so he ordered all ships in Boston Harbor to remain until they unloaded all their cargo. In response, Samuel Adams and 150 followers dressed as Native Americans boarded the ships and unloaded 90,000 pounds of British tea into the harbor. This property destruction did not meet with universal approval even from colonists who opposed the tea act, but many lost sympathy for the home country when the British government reduced liberties in Massachusetts to the point where the colonial charter of 1691 was virtually null and void (Thernstrom 138-139). By provoking a harsh response from the British, Samuel Adams and friends re-ignited a lot of the anti-British sentiment in the other colonies that had risen during earlier unpopular tactics of the British but had temporarily quieted after most of the offending acts had been repealed or were left un-enforced (Thernstrom 138-139).

I recommend that Adams and followers should not publicize pictures of tea being destroyed, but instead try to propagate stories of British oppression throughout social media. Video footage of colonists trying to exercise some of their previously held rights, such as assembly, but being confronted by British officials and troops could be very effective and can be uploaded to YouTube, embedded on blogs, and more.

Political Organization
The Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence were both formed in Boston to bring about the actions that the revolutionaries public relations efforts had inspired (Broom and Sha 76). The Massachusetts Committee on Correspondence urged the other colonies to limit importation of British luxury goods as a protest against the Sugar Act which they saw as an example of unfair taxation but received only limited support at that time (Thernstrom 131).

Social media is terrific for boycotts – a multimedia campaign with hashtags such as #boycottbritain or #boycottbritishgoods could be very effective as the colonists power to boycott has caused economic damage to Britain on more than one occasion (Thernstrom 132, 137).

Symbols
The Liberty Tree is an an example of a symbol that the revolutionaries adopted to identify their movement and get potential recruits emotionally involved (Broom and Sha 76). The original Liberty Tree was an elm located in Boston. Under its branches, critics of the British government met and launched a protest, inflamed by the Stamp Act, which they believed ushered in an unwelcome era of taxation without representation. The Stamp Act required revenue-raising stamps to be sold by the imperial government and be placed by the colonists on any printed matter. In addition, since violators of the Stamp Act were not to be tried in colonial courts but rather British admirality courts which heretofore had restricted themselves to navigation related cases, the colonists revolted in order not to set a precedence for trials without a jury (Thernstrom 131-132).

The “Sons of Liberty”, who led protests against the Stamp Act throughout the colonies created effigies of stamp officials and subjected the effigies to various indignities including symbolic hanging from the Liberty Tree. Using other methods to intimidate would-be stamp officials into resigning, such as property damage and marches, the “Sons of Liberty” wanted to keep the protests mostly symbolic but were sometimes joined by sailors and workers who had patronized the local taverns and were primed to engage in some burning and looting. The pressures from these acts of civil disobedience and property destruction were enough to make the Stamp Act unenforceable by the British (Thernstrom 132).

The Stamp Act was able to unify the colonies in their outrage more than the previous Sugar Act had been, although more widening of rifts between the British government and the colonists would be required to get the protest leaders more interested in revolution (Thernstrom 133-134). A popular manifestation of opposition to the Stamp Act was a skull and crossbones placed on papers where the hated taxation stamp should have gone. Many newspapers throughout the colonies used similar imagery (“A Pledge to…”), displaying how a symbol can spread socially even with non-electronic technology available. The skull and crossbones could be an even more popular image with electronic help to go along with hash tags such as #thefatalstamp.

News Tips
The Boston Massacre is one example of the revolutionaries’ ability to get their side of the story out first in order to promote their interpretation of events (Broom and Sha 76). Many colonists were persuaded to see the killings as deliberate acts of tyranny by Samuel Adams and the colonial press (Thernstrom 137).

Citizen journalists allied with the revolutionary cause are encouraged to take pictures and video of the massacre and send to as many social media channels and media outlets as possible, along with personal accounts and reports, to make sure our take on the event is prominent in the public discourse and disseminated as quickly as possible.”

Works Cited

“A Pledge to Violate the Stamp Act.” NCpedia, 2020, www.ncpedia.org/anchor/pledge-violate-stamp-act. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.” Library of Congress, 2020, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel03.html. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Blasts From The Past

When I worked for Webinar Resources, I wrote a lot of blog and newsletter articles. I’m going through some of them for an assignment I’m doing in my Strategic Communications class. Here is a Wayback Machine link to some of the articles I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Enjoy!

Webinar Resources Blog on the Wayback Machine

Webinar Resources Newsletter Archive

Here is how my homework turned out.

“In the article “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It” author Kimberly E. Stone makes the case that social media should be used to reinforce what traditional marketing is doing, but not take over or take the lead from traditional channels.

She believes the best uses for social media in the present day are:

  • Gaining intelligence
  • Interacting with customers
  • Managing crises

It would be interesting to review how I thought social media should be used back when the company I was working for was heavily into business blogging and I was writing blog and newsletter articles about how and why to use social media. I found articles I wrote on our old blog from 2009-2012 on the Wayback Machine. Here is the link I used to view my old articles.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120910054954/http://blog.webinarresources.com/blog/customer-acquisition-2

What did I think social media was good for during that time?

  • Making it easy for customers to share your content
    Videos
    Applications designed to build subscriber lists
  • Making shareable archives
  • Broadcasting
  • Listening
    What are customers currently interested in
    Is anyone talking about us in a negative way
  • Cutting the cost of distributing your content
  • Customer relations
  • Community building
  • Creative expression
  • Collaboration
  • Leveraging the investment in content by repurposing in different channels
  • Manage reputation

My list is much more broad, but although I worded some things differently my list mostly includes everything that is in the author’s list. I did say in one of my articles that I learned in a webinar put on by Compendium Blogware that an organization has to get their “SEO, Social, Content, Email Marketing and PR people to communicate with each other”. A PR practitioner can play a role in facilitating communication within an organization as well as between the organization and its publics (Broom and Sha 189). So I do agree with the author’s premise, that social media should augment traditional channels but not replace them.

While I was writing these articles I was mostly writing for small companies. I touted the benefits of social media partly for the lower price point of entry over some traditional marketing channels. That did not mean I favored not using the older channels if there is a budget for it.  Whatever is new is always exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump on every new thing if it doesn’t fit. The goals of all the channels that are used should be to present a consistent experience in keeping with the organizations brand and objectives. All channels are not appropriate for all audiences, so it isn’t necessarily good to use every one that is available. Also, during Marketing 5000 class I learned there is at least one older channel that is coming back into favor if used in an updated way – the catalog. To choose the right mix means keeping up to date on the trends as popularity waxes and wanes for certain channels.”

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Stone, Kimberly E. “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It.” Forbes, Sep 18, 2012. Accessed 15 September 2020.

Article Review: Marketing “Green” Products and Being a Good Corporate Citizen

This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Dr. John Jinkner

MRKT-5000: Marketing

6 April 2020

Article Review #1: – E-Marketing, Digital Media and Social Networking

Name of the Article:  “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales”

Source:  Journal of Interactive Marketing

URL:  http://dx.doi.org.library3.webster.edu/10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005

Article Summary

Authors Lu and Miller examined how loyalty rewards programs (LRP) combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and social media campaigns could increase sales of “green” products in a retail setting.  Concentrating on grocers who sell foods that are marketed as organic, healthy and sustainable, the article explains that while the demand for “green” foods is growing, there are barriers to the acceptance of these products among some consumers (Lu and Miller, 87-88).  Some potential customers hold the perception that environmentally sustainable foods are too expensive, aren’t adequate substitutes for conventional products and are not worth the extra cost.  With additional knowledge about the value of such products, some consumers can be persuaded to give them a chance and be converted to motivated buyers (Lu and Miller, 88).

Because Facebook was the most dominant social media platform in the world at the time of the study, the authors used it to examine the relationship between Facebook content and sales among “green” grocery retailers in a large city in Australia.  Facebook is a platform that marketers can use to practice social customer relationship management (SCRM), an updated form of customer relationship management (CRM) that adds social media into the marketing mix (Lu and Miller, 89).  Intuition and previous studies showed the authors that effective content on Facebook should increase sales.  Their study focused on participants in loyalty rewards programs which are proven to increase profitability if used effectively (Lu and Miller, 90).

Social media gives consumers more control over marketing because they can create and share content rather than just consuming content that is pushed to them by the brand (Lu and Miller, 89).  Both brand-generated and consumer-generated content can increase the level of interest and engagement with a brand, which has a positive influence on actual shopping activity (Lu and Miller, 89, 91).  “Green” products do often require more knowledge on the part of the consumer to realize the value and to stimulate a purchase (Lu and Miller, 91).  Many “green” consumers organize themselves into social media-based communities that share common values and exchange information (Lu and Miller, 91).  Consumers need to be motivated to effectively consume information presented by a brand (Lu and Miller, 92).  It makes sense to leverage the power of social media along with the heightened brand engagement exhibited by long-term loyalty reward program participants (Lu and Miller, 92) to increase the acceptance of environmentally responsible products.  Lu and Miller found that thoughtful SCRM strategies did increase the sales of “green” products to long-term LRP members (Lu and Miller, 97) and that these loyal customers responded more to messages about the health benefits of sustainable products than they did about the environmental benefits or the price (Lu and Miller, 98).

How this Article Relates to our Course

In Chapter 1 of our textbook, “Marketing”, we are reminded that environmental factors that influence marketing can change quickly (Pride and Ferrell, 13).  As we are now suddenly dealing with a global health issue that has severe effects on many aspects of life, one way consumer needs have changed rapidly is that we need supplies to protect ourselves from infection.  Health, physical and mental, is at the top of nearly everyone’s concerns right now.  I work in a store that has a loyalty rewards program, engages in social media marketing, and sells some environmentally conscious products, considerations which made the article I reviewed of particular interest.  We also sell supplies, some in stock intermittently, that customers want and need to cope with the pandemic.  I’m observing and participating in real time how to change course rapidly as we respond to consumer demand as well as reading about it in our textbook.

Perhaps some might assume that such an event in history is a time for mere coping, not marketing.  Marketing concept is a philosophy that an organization adopts when it takes into account not only the needs of customers but the welfare of all the stakeholders that it has an effect upon (Pride and Ferrell, 13-14).  Customers of the store are stakeholders, as well as are owners, employees, vendors, service providers, delivery people, the families of all those groups and the community as a whole. Profiting by satisfying customer demand at the expense of other stakeholders was already frowned upon by many as a business practice before the current challenges we are facing (Pride and Ferrell, 14).  Brand managers would be wise to be wary of being perceived as exploiting a crisis.  For example, businesses that inflate the prices of crucial items or make false claims about the usefulness of products have been reported by name in an article published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (Stewart).

The article I reviewed is enlightening when considering how marketing concept applies to serving the community in the present time.  Since long-term loyalty rewards program customers are the most profitable customer category for a retailer (Lu and Miller, 92), it is less than rational to reap short-term gains at the risk of offending long-term loyal customers with behavior that is not community-minded.  I hypothesize that a brand that already takes into account all stakeholders and has effectively imbued its organization with the philosophy behind its marketing concept is at low risk for carelessly implementing an action that will backfire because the first instincts of individuals within the organization will be to serve rather than exploit.  Now is not a time to cease marketing but to use actions as marketing while serving all stakeholders with a view to their long-term health and welfare, fiscal and otherwise.

Works Cited

Lu, Qiang Steven, and Rohan Miller. “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales.” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 46, May 2019, pp. 87–100. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005. Accessed 06 April 2020.

Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.

Stewart, Tynan. “Overpriced toilet paper, $12 masks: Missourians complain about coronavirus price-gouging.” Stltoday.com, 2020, www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/overpriced-toilet-paper-12-masks-missourians-complain-about-coronavirus-price-gouging/article_4bedcd86-c828-5be2-9f03-c3e010ef820c.html. Accessed 6 April 2020.

Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages

In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.

I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.

blog traffic increased by trolling
Yes I’m a graphic designer and I could have easily faked this graphic – but I give you my word that I didn’t, for what it’s worth!

With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!

In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.

A political ad that comments on advertising and is also a trolling test.

Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).

The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.

Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.

There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!

The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?

political photo choice in an ad and in an article
Photo from the Warren ad on the left, photo from the Webster University Journal on the right. What messages might be sent based on Scale? On Relative Position? Anything else?

After reading my paper “Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown what do you think of the above two photos? Still photos and motion pictures use a lot of the same production elements. Following are some more questions I would ask the writer, editor and publisher of the Journal if I could.

Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?

Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?

Why was no mention made of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report? The excerpt below is from page 21:

“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”

I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.

To see what I used as sources in analyzing the Journal article I put a link to the Journal article and other interesting articles on the topic I found, plus a link to the Senate report on this Confucius Institutes on College Campuses Pinterest board.

The Spiral of Silence Theory

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor but no corrections were made.


The Spiral of Silence Theory

In 1963, Bernard Cohen identified a mass media phenomenon called agenda-setting, a theory which posits that the media has an influence over what topics people think are important even if it has limited control over the content of those thoughts (Baran and Davis 264). Research in 1972 by Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald Shaw appeared to confirm the theory while later researchers expanded on the nature of agenda-setting and amount of interchange between the media and the intended audience (Baran and Davis 264-268). Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann originated the spiral-of-silence theory which argues that people will be more reluctant to express their views if they believe those views are in the minority. This self-censorship results in views that are perceived as less popular gradually disappearing from public debate (Baran and Davis 268).

In 1973, Noelle-Neumann examined what caused the media to possess this agenda-setting power. In her view, one factor is that the media is readily available for consumption. Another reason is that there is a cumulative effect – the messages cross content formats and types of media and are repeated over time. Thirdly, there is a lack of diversity among the opinions of journalists that tends to lead to homogeneity of topics presented to the public (Baran and Davis 268-269). Other researchers have continued to criticize, test and analyze the spiral of silence theory (Baran and Davis 269).

During the 20th Century, information tended to flow in a top-down manner from the elites to the masses. In the present time, we still use legacy media such as printed materials and electronic media. The category of actors that would have relied on such “old media” to distribute their messages, such as activist groups, governments, organizations and companies, are still using those legacy channels along with the newer decentralized web-based platforms. Additionally, we are producing user-generated content in the form of blogs and social media posts that compete for time and attention alongside the more elite content sources (Poulakidakos 373). The line between production and consumption has been considerably blurred (Poulakidakos 377).

Individual media users make decisions to determine when it is safe or desirable to express an opinion in the public sphere (Poulakidakos 374). Users do monitor whether their opinion is in the majority or minority and take the effect on their online and real-life relationships into consideration before deciding what to share (Poulakidakos 374). A 2011 study by Andrew Hayes and associates examined the effect of opinion polls and found that they do have a greater influence on people who suffer more fear of social isolation (Baran and Davis 269). There is a tendency for some individuals polled to tell the researchers what they think they want to hear rather than their true opinion (Gearhart and Zhgang 38). This behavior suggests that some people who think they are conforming to their fellow citizens to gain social acceptance are really conforming to the perceived opinions of the poll takers instead.

What factors make people more willing to take the risk of expressing their opinion? Awareness of a wider variety of opinions helps – with more diverse points of view available for consumption, there is less fear of social exclusion for expressing an opinion, helping to break the spiral of silence effect (Poulakidakos 375). Minority opinion holders are more willing to speak out on issues that they hold very firmly and believe are of high importance (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). People are more willing to express their true opinions in forums where they are not required to reveal their real-life identity (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). Less popular opinions are more likely to be expressed when people perceive that their view is gaining momentum (Gearhart and Zhgang 48).

Research by Gerarhart and Zhang shows that the perception that the media is in line with the user’s opinions has only a limited effect on the willingness of people to post truthfully about their thoughts. The perceived opinion of other members of the person’s nation had very little effect (Gearhart and Zhgang 44-46). In other words, the opinions of real-life friends and family carry a lot more weight with individuals than the media or the general public (Gearhart and Zhgang 50).

Even if the intended effect is not very significant, some appear to feel that any advantage is worth pursuing when the stakes are high, such as they are in the case of a major election. It is estimated that 1.4 billion USD was spent on digital advertising in the 2016 US Presidential election (Madrigal). A Pew research study shows that with over a year to go before the next Presidential election, 46% of social media users are already fatigued by the amount of political content they are exposed to (Anderson and Quinn). Our current culture is increasingly tolerant of incivility and some of the political content and behavior goes beyond mere propaganda, taking the form of online shaming, bullying and offline terrorism. Vitriol is not only directed at candidates but also their supporters (Gordon). On our own Webster University Campus in 2019, wearing a candidate’s t-shirt or having a candidate’s bumper sticker on a car has resulted in attempted property damage, vituperative verbal insults, and physical assault (Farrah). It is possible to be attacked even when not engaging in public political speech based solely on identity (Gordon). In 2015, a man was allegedly beaten on public transportation in St. Louis for declining to state a political opinion when asked (Associated Press). The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2016 that there were 10 active hate groups in the St. Louis area that “target others based on perceived membership in a class of people” (Moffit).

Studies cited earlier in this paper have found that the opinion climate in a particular environment does have some effect on open opinion expression. In the case of political views, can the majority consensus in a social media platform, such as Facebook, accurately predict voting behavior? According to a study by Mihee Kim, if an individual is not strongly committed to a political point of view, not only is such a person unlikely to express an opinion in a hostile environment, that person is less likely to vote at all. People strongly partisan to a certain point of view were also less forthcoming with opinions in a hostile environment, but rather than reducing political participation in the real world as the less committed did, they increased their activities in a direction opposite of what they perceived as the majority view (Kim 700). As a result, those actors attempting to sway voters in their preferred political direction by making it seem as though the voters’ own opinions are unpopular are likely to get the opposite outcome than was intended.

The nature of new media results in users having more choices of what content to consume and more individualized control over what they prefer to consume (Poulakidakos 374). If our nation has lost its’ tolerance for the open debate that allows ideas to be heard and judged on their merits, then we will continue to make important decisions about the future of our country with only the opinions from our own self-selected sphere of influence to guide us (Poulakidakos 374).

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica and Dennis Quinn. “46% of U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions.” Pew Research Center, 2019, www.pewresearch.org/…/46-of-u-s-social-media-users…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Associated Press. “FBI investigates possible hate crime cases in St. Louis.” CBS Interactive Inc., 2015, www.cbsnews.com/…/fbi-begins-investigations-into…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Moffit, Kelly. “10 hate groups in the St. Louis area: Defining and discussing what they stand for today.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2016, https://news.stlpublicradio.org/…/10-hate-groups-st…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.


Further reading: Here are some links to things I didn’t use or cite but might be interesting to read if you like this topic!

Democracy vs. Republic

The Power to Influence

12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Facebook Says it Doesn’t Try to Influence How People Vote

“Feminazis,” “libtards,” “snowflakes,” and “racists”: Trolling and the Spiral of Silence effect in women, LGBTQIA communities, and disability populations before and after the 2016 election

Effects of the “Spiral of Silence” in Digital Media

Spiral of Silence, and the Election Half of us Saw Coming

The only true winners of this election are trolls

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”