Privacy; Government access; International regulations;
In recent years, ethics and law regarding privacy has been put in jeopardy. This is because of issues such as the News of The World hacking scandal, which sent journalism into a frenzy as the Leveson Inquiry was launched. As well as the emergence of Wiki-leaks, who published a number of confidential documents online, without permission.
Wikileaks releases uncovered information on finance, security and conflict, previously secret information, and as a consequence have a great influence on how media operates and how audiences receive and distribute information. Their releases have publicised information not created for mass audiences and consequently have been the pivotal point for a number of political, cultural and economic conflicts.
However Khan (2010) does not believe Wikileaks is all bad, ‘I feel passionately that democracy need a strong and free media. It’s the only way governments are honest and remain accountable.’ He believes some good has come out of the new journalism style created by Wikileaks. He believes such sites have helped keep audiences informed and reduced the amount of information held by those in power, helping us as a society to make more decisions regarding our own welfare.
In 2011 it was revealed that News of the World had been hacking voicemails etc. to illegally gain information. This was clearly a breach of human rights, as victims did not grant the journalists permission. This led to the arrest of almost a dozen people including four editors. The credibility and ethics of UK journalism was put in the spot light, many began to question were NOTW the only publication to use this means of gaining information. This led to the initiation of the Leveson Enquiry, an enquiry investigating the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.
Lord Leveson inquiry looked into how the platform of the British Press was regulated. He made proposals for press regulation agreed by the main political parties, however many newspapers refused to cooperate with these new guidelines. The proposals made by Leveson include the following as outlined by the BBC (2012):
- Newspapers continue to be self-regulated – and government have no power over content.
- A New press standards body backed by legislation.
- Provide the public with confidence complaints would be taken seriously.
However, this is specific to the UK. The regulation of every country varies, with some countries being more/less lenient than others.
This regulation is carried out by individual bodies depending on the area in; examples of UK regulation bodies include OFCOM and ASA. These bodies and guidelines set out to ‘protect vulnerable elements within society who may be ‘victim’ to passive consumption.’
One example of where regulation was needed in the UK was the release of Miley Cyrus video ‘We Can’t Stop,’ where the content was deemed ‘too raunchy’ and a censored version was aired on UK screens. However, the regulation of media in the US is much more lenient as they allowed the same video to air without censorship!