The way that news is propagated to the public has changed.
Before social media
Before social media, important government announcements in Australia were efficiently transmitted via:
- two newspapers in each city; and
- five television channels in each city.
The situation now
Now, a large proportion of the public’s primary source of news is via social media channels. News-related posts are mixed in amongst posts about cats and selfies.
This makes it more difficult during crisis situations for government to communicate a consistent message to the public. There is no consistent timing for social media posts to appear in a user’s feed, so it can happen that news stories can be out of sequence in a user’s news feed, resulting in misinformation and confusion.
What needs to happen?
In future, government should legislate so that in a crisis:
- Government posts are mandated as highest priority across the main social media used in Australia; and
- Mandated SMS text messaging should be used for official government information.