Influencers and bloggers who have thousands of followers on social media must adhere to press ethics rules, Danish Minister of Children and Education Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil of the Social Democratic Party has stated.
Her announcement came in the wake of a recent scandal, in which popular blogger Fie Laursen, who has over 330,000 followers on Instagram, published a suicide note. The letter, which received 30,000 comments and 8,000 likes, was publicly available for two days before being removed by Fie Laursen herself.
According to Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil, similar incidents must not occur in the future.
“All journalists are familiar with the press ethics rules that, for example, that one must be careful about talking about suicide in the public space. When managing popular blogs with hundreds of thousands of followers, I think we can make the same demands. Had Fie Laursen known these rules, she would hopefully have pulled the brakes before publishing the letter”, Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil told the newspaper Berlingske.
According to the minister, a specially appointed board should be tasked with observing that the rules are being followed and authorised to remove posts that presumably violate press ethics.
“The blogs must have a duty to designate, say, three people who must have the password for the blog or profile. These people can then remove a post if they believe it violates the press ethics even though it was the blogger has posted it”, the minister explained. According to her, this is a necessity, since some influencers now have a larger followship than established media.
Whether individuals and media outlets comply with press ethics rules is assessed by the Press Board, which may express criticism and ask for rectification. The minister suggested that the limit for press ethics responsibility may be drawn at about 5,000 followers.
Vibeke Borberg, lawyer at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, argued that imposing editorial responsibility on bloggers may be a tough task. Borberg also warned against equating established news media with social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
“The significant difference is that ordinary media work on the basis of editorial and journalistic methods, to which the press ethics rules apply. Social media, on the other hand, are just a platform where users post that something of completely different nature. It is rather of a form of communication than it a news platform”, Vibeke Borberg explained.
Conservative politician Mette Abildgaard denounced the suggestion.
“'Dear suicidal girl. You may be punished for violating editorial standards for your public suicide note'. Wow, how sympathetic”, she tweeted.
Wauw - sikke er svar fra den nye socialdemokratiske minister, @RosenkrantzT : “Kære selvmordstruede unge pige! Du skal kunne straffes qua dit redaktørsansvar for dit offentlige selvmordsforsøg”. Sympatisk... https://t.co/INNE8xlt59— Mette Abildgaard (@metteabildgaard) 9 июля 2019 г.
“This is called socialism... You say you want to protect the weakest, but in the end it is always the weakest that are hit”, another user chimed in.
By contrast, The Danish Bloggers Union welcomed a debate on blogging rules. According to its chairwoman, Lisbeth Kiel, the organisation is currently preparing an ethical code, in which, she hopes, many web personas will volunteer. According to her, advertisers can help push the trend in the right direction by investing their money with the bloggers who meet the ethical requirements.
One of Denmark's most popular bloggers, Sarah Louise Christiansen, the author of the fashion and lifestyle blog Sarahlouise.dk, agrees that more rules are needed in her profession.
“I believe bloggers and influencers should have greater responsibility for what we can and can't do. We have so many people who look up to us and listen to us. So we have a huge power. The truth is, there are people who follow the influencers blindly, and it's mega scary. So I totally agree, of course we should have tighter rules”, Sarah Louise Christiansen told Danish Radio, describing bloggers as “neither journalists, nor ordinary people”.
23-year-old Fie Cecilia Laursen is a Danish blogger, YouTuber, author, reality star, and photo model. Her suicide note published this past weekend was immediately reported to Instagram, while her family also struggled to get it removed. Instagram later parried that the letter was kept on purpose out of consideration for Laursen's health and very life.
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Update på sleeve - Vi er stadig igang 🙈 Jeg har også fået skrevet “Not Possible” på halsen i min mors håndskrift, fordi det har stor betydning for mig. Når vi siger vi elsker hinanden, så ender vi altid med “not Possible”, i vi elsker hinanden højest... ❤️ skud ud til min bro @younqzta (og det er ikk spons)
“The potential suicidee may be a young person hoping to be found, when he or she puts out a suicide note. We can't just barge in and remove it, because then we run the risk of stifling the plea for help. There are several examples of people being rescued because friends or family have discovered their cry for help in time”, Martin Ruby, Ingragram owner Facebook's political chief in Scandinavia, explained to Berlingske.