Two days following the tragic on-camera deaths of two gifted young journalists in nearby Roanoke Virginia, I asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for his thoughts on whether ‘Social Media’ can be manipulated to serve evil intentions and provide so-called sociopathic individuals their “15 seconds of fame.” His answer is pretty forthcoming, as we all – journalists, politicians and the public in general – contemplate this new and challenging aspect of our new 24 hour news cycle.
Jon-Christopher Bua: As social media has become, in some ways, very beneficial — we look at the Arab Spring, we look at social media efforts in Ukraine — but when you look at this individual who has taken advantage of social media very quickly in a sense to get his 15 minutes of fame, how responsible should those individuals who use social media be to allowing such dastardly acts become part of our mainstream culture?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I guess in situations like this, everybody from their social media feed becomes an assignment editor. And I think sometimes as we consume social media — I saw at least one expert on these issues indicate that a lot of times we consume this information and we hit retweet or we hit the favorite button before we even realize what we’ve done or recognize the consequences for the way that information is distributed.
And, look, this is new technology. It’s new technology for the experts in this room and it certainly is for people all across the country as they learn about how to use it and what norms should govern the information that’s transmitted along those channels. But, look, there’s no denying that this a unique but nonetheless terribly tragic situation, and our hearts continue to be with the families of those who were so deeply affected by this, particularly the families of those who were killed.