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When ethics and algorithms collide | PR Ireland

The European Institute of Public Relations invited Paul Allen to give his thoughts on ‘’If Ethics Matter’’ to a gathering of students on Monday 24th February.

Here are some extracts from the talk:

I would like to talk about where ethics and algorithms collide.

While we enjoy living in modern times, sometimes when it comes to media, in particular social media, we live in a world that’s almost Medieval Times.

Victims are ridiculed and disgraced by the masses and dragged screaming into the town square, put in stocks and people invited to queue up to throw rotten food at them.

Today the rotten food has been replaced by nasty and vile words. These words have a detrimental effect on many people’s lives and mental health.

It is now commonplace to jeer, slag-off with outrageous comments and pillory people anonymously online. This has been aided and abetted by sections of the tabloid media who have played the role of an echo chamber. Where are ethics when you see this type of outrageous harassment continued time and time again? Some people have not been able to cope and have taken their lives.

Last Saturday, I was with friends, all our phones went ping at the same time, we all looked at each other and said, ‘who is Caroline Flack?’

Sadly, I had never heard of her, I don’t watch Love Island, I don’t watch Strictly and I certainly don’t watch Dancing with The Stars but in the past seven days, her name has been reoccurring with sections of the media and social media bouncing off each other, pointing the blame at each other. They even blamed the Crown Prosecution Service.

Caroline was clearly a talented lady with a bright future.

At the early stage of her career, she spoke about the impact comments on social media have had on her life. She posted tweets like, it’s the personal things that hurt you, as a female, they pick on everything, your hair your dress your weight. Endless stories about her private life, true or untrue have clearly had a great toll on her.

I remember a journalist telling me ‘’never let the truth stand in the way of a good story’’ or ‘’that’s too good a story to be treated off the record’’, where are the ethics here? However, the interaction between social media and the tabloid press is remarkable and explosive like a fireball. One needs the other as they bounce off each other. Social media is like gambling, we all keep coming back for more and more to satisfy our interest, aided and abetted by technology which amplifies and echoes the worst of human nature.

I would like to talk about the impact and the ethics involved. Last December she posted, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind. There has been a lot going on in her life and the past two weeks have seen the press blame social media for what happened.

Here in Ireland, there have been far too many suicides as a result of people not being able to take the pressure and fallout of social media.

Caroline’s phrase #bekind certainly spoke volumes. In a world of social media, where do ethics exist? Why do social media platforms allow hate to exist with the many trolls who continue to be allowed to put up shocking and disturbing comments about other people?

Where are the ethics behind social media platforms being allowed to continually harass other people?

Here’s one for the social media platforms and a tribute to the Caroline I never knew, introduce a be kind policy rather than allow hate to continue.




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