In partnership with the PM Glynn Institute, ACU's public policy think tank, Loreto Kirribilli co-hosted an Ethos panel discussion ‘Harnessing social media for the common good.’
Held at NSW Parliament House on March 15, this was the first Ethos event of 2022, examining the role of social media in Australian society, the ethical challenges it poses for politics, debate and wellbeing, and what social accountability means for social media.
Walkley award-winning journalist, Helen Dalley ('74), led the conversation between Principal, Anna Dickinson; Loreto Kirribilli First Councillor, Gemma; The Australian's editor-at-large, Paul Kelly; and ACU’s Dianoia Institute for Philosophy Director, Professor Stephen Finlay.
Mrs Dickinson spoke passionately about the transformative power of social media, and how social media can be a force ‘for the common good’. By way of example she cited the successful #Buy from the Bush campaign instigated by ex-student Grace Brennan (Clark ‘01), which connects city dwellers with regional businesses and poured livelihood-saving dollars into rural New South Wales during the recent drought.
Mrs Dickinson also highlighted the challenges posed by the lack of regulation on social media platforms and stressed the need for tech companies to be better informed by the values of justice, sincerity, verity, felicity and freedom in their own policy formulation.
Professor Stephen Finlay reminded the audience of the importance of free speech as a foundation of democracy, and deplored the polarising impact social media can have on belief systems.
Paul Kelly voiced his real concern for the future of democracy, given the narrowing of societal exposure to broad ideas as a consequence of social media’s use of specifically designed algorithms.
Providing the audience with a youth perspective, Loreto Kirribilli First Councillor Gemma clearly articulated the challenges posed by a lack of regulation, while acknowledging the positive impacts social media can bring in maintaining social connection, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The conversation explored a rich variety of topics including ‘Big Tech’ revenues, parental guidance, education, Government regulation, political manipulation, hate speech and insidious algorithms.
Professor Stephen Finlay distilled the issues with a philosopher’s flair. “Genuine freedom comes from law, not the absence of law.”
Mrs Dickinson concluded the discussion by reiterating the imperative for values to sit at the heart of our approach to social media into the future.
Ethos is an initiative of the PM Glynn Institute, ACU’s public policy think tank. It is a new series of major events focused on the big public ethics issues of the day and what they mean for the future of Australia. Ethos events draw together leading thinkers and figures shaping public discussion to tackle current and emerging challenges for our life in common.