Hiding behind a Twitter Handle. Regulating the Online Debate.

When Qantas invited their Twitter followers to tweet about ideal fantasy holidays using the hashtag #qantasluxury, did they honestly expect that there not to be a barrage of complaints from customers who ‘highjacked‘ the hashtag?

Opening up the conversation anywhere on the internet can pose a risk but from the perspective of a brand, if executed poorly, it is an extremely fickle way of marketing. In other words, it is highly beneficial if the brand listens to the customers, but on the other hand it is impossible to regulate comments and protect the brands reputation.

Image: The Australian.

Qantas launched the competition with little regard to timeliness and the position that the company was in. Only a few weeks previously, Qantas had grounded its entire fleet unexpectedly and began the introduction of shifting the majority of the company overseas.

And they call themselves ‘The Spirit of Australia’?

Australia wasn’t happy, and they where not afraid to show it.

What can be done to regulate the online dialogue? Twitter is notorious for its lack of regulation; it is more common for tweets to come under fire by peer regulators. Those who feel strongly against what has been said are known to bombard the ‘tweeter’ and if the backlash is strong enough, eventually the tweet or even the account is removed.

Is this type of regulation offering ‘free debate and public expression’? I view it as peer pressure, as soon as someone actually does challenge others, they will be forced to remove it.

With that said, it is important to debate what is acceptable within the free debate and public expression domain. Martin (2012) discourses that in the online world, the relatively anonymity and weak social ties means that people have a lowered ability to be civil to one another.

Therefore online comments via Twitter could lead to a customer using exaggeration, and can include personal attacks on others.

It is a continuous balancing act for all users involved in online conversations between what they believe they have the right to say and what is deemed inappropriate. We have to accept that no matter what, people will offend others but it is how we choose to respond that will shape the future of the conversation.

References:

http://theconversation.com/how-not-to-use-twitter-lessons-from-qantas-and-westpac-5342

http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/spoof-qantas-twitter-account-shut-down-20120214-1t3h5.html

Martin, F 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, editors, N. Brugger and M. Burns. New York:

Peter Lang. pp. 177-192

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