Google, Facebook and the challenge of control

The search engine and social media providers have come under pressure this week with demands for them to take greater responsibility over their businesses. Google have been forced to defend themselves against accusations that they aren’t being proactive in dealing with offensive material. Earlier this week Facebook took the unusual step of saying they will be more proactive in removing forms of hate speech particularly against women.

As the online world has developed it has brought fantastic opportunities to connect with people around the globe. This can be a great source of innovation and creativity but it can also bring with it the negative and darker sides of life. Ensuring there was no restriction has allowed the online world to develop in ways that were never envisaged but it has also brought with it an opportunity for those intent on criminal activity.

The situation is something similar to the one that organisations face in dealing with staff using social networks. Businesses and companies want to give employees the chance to be creative and develop communities as well as seeking out opportunities to move into new markets. But they also recognise that there are risks to the ventures and there is always a chance for people to overstep boundaries of acceptability.

We cannot control the digital world we can only set out the boundaries and explain why they exist. For businesses this means giving people a clear understanding of what is expected and then dealing with them if they deliberately transgress. In all this the individual has a great responsibility which is the flip side to having the great power that social networks give. We want employees to understand what is expected and we have to be able to help them understand. Education and discussion with staff is one of the most important things for companies to put in place.

We know that social networks and online activity brings with it risks that have to be managed. There is no control so with boundaries and education we have to deal with those risks. This is the framework that organisations need to outline and have in place if they are to make the most of the digital opportunities. And surely that is something that we cannot shy away from despite the dark elements that exist?

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