Outrage From Logan Paul Video and Trump’s Nuclear Tweets Puts Social Platforms on the Alert

We’ve heard it said often at conferences and during panels at trade shows: “The internet and social media have their good sides and bad sides.”

While it’s true that what many consider the bad side of social media—scams, baseless attacks on people, brands and organizations, the way it’s reduced our attention span—tends to receive far more coverage than its positive aspects, we might be seeing a change in attitude about social media. The change is an insistence toward more responsible behavior on social platforms. Several recent stories illustrate this.

During the first working day of the year for many of us, Jan. 2, the YouTube star Logan Paul posted a video showing a dead body hanging from a tree in Japan’s so-called Suicide Forest, a common location for suicides. During the video, according to media reports, Paul makes light of the situation. The YouTube star has 15 million subscribers on YouTube’s Red service; the video reportedly garnered several million views before Paul took it down after 24 hours due to outrage from the social media community. Paul apologized, tweeting that he made the video to raise awareness of suicide. He added Tuesday that his subscribers should not defend the video. YouTube also apologized.

The incident worsened Jan. 3 for YouTube when someone who claimed to be a member of the channel’s content-checking team said the Paul video was assessed internally and given a green light Jan. 1. BuzzFeed first reported the story. You can be sure communicators will be watching YouTube’s response.

Plagued by unseemly videos, YouTube said last year its team of video checkers would total some 10,000 people in 2018.

In the earlier days of social media would this video have raised such a negative ruckus? Would it be taken down? Maybe not.

[Update: Paul said Jan. 4 he was stepping away from posting YouTube videos and "taking time to reflect."]

Meanwhile in San Francisco, there’s more reaction to what's seen as improper social media content. A group called Resist SF is blasting Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey, saying the platform is “complicit” in that it's allowing President Donald Trump to spout rhetoric about nuclear war. The group is urging Twitter and Dorsey to ban the president’s Twitter account. They contend allowing Trump to tweet about nuclear war is counter to Twitter’s anti-violence rules. On the evening of Jan. 2, in response to a statement from N. Korea leader Kim Jong-un, Trump tweeted about the size of his nuclear button. The group is planning to protest this evening.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 11.28.53 AMLeading PR pros have taken note of the upsurge in outrage in our culture toward negative, destructive behavior online and in the workplace. For its Dec. 19 edition, PR News asked 17 senior PR leaders to make predictions about the coming year and reflect on lessons of 2017. One of themes that emerged from the predictions was that brand communicators will be asked to help foster a greater sense of humanity in face-to-face and digital communications.

Roger Bolton, president of the Arthur W. Page Society and a recent PR News Hall of Fame inductee, said, “The role of the CCO will continue to increase in stature and value in response to the growing need to find common ground during a time of polarizing tribalism and strife. CCOs will help enterprises listen to stakeholders and communicate their commitment to working with people of good faith to build societal value.”

Catherine Hernandez-Blades, chief brand and communications officer at Aflac, predicted #MeToo will inspire similar movements. “People will still behave badly,” although social media tools will help communicators debunk such behavior, she predicts.

Rob Stoddard, SVP, industry & association affairs at NCTA, predicted, “With growing acknowledgment that social media platforms aren’t a panacea for our social ills, and that they can harm as well as help our social discourse, in 2018 communicators will need to marry social responsibility with authenticity to generate meaningful results in social media.”

Stacey Tank, CCO, The Home Depot, summed it up well. “In the darkest times, we cannot forget to tell stories of hope. When times are at their worst, humanity can be at its best, as we saw during the unbelievable number of disasters in 2017.”

Follow Seth: @skarenstein