role of mass media on society

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The impact of the media on society has been enormous over the last five decades, with the current generation viewing it as an essential component of contact. It has been discovered that 71% of state agencies, 82% of municipal agencies, and 81% of federal agencies use social media in the workplace (Atlanta, 2012). The entertainment sector of the mass media, including social media, has played an equally important role in defining the relationship in various social spheres. Yet, the most major application of entertainment media has been in the law enforcement sector, with discussions about police engagement in social media demonstrating a quick transformation in policing. Following the increase in the use of entertainment media in law enforcement, it is affirmed that the media is misrepresenting policing processes and has more adverse effects relating to reliability, limited access, and the lack of authenticity.

One of the primary setbacks in the reliance of the mass media as a tool for sharing content to the public in the policing process is that there is a challenge of low internet penetration. Usually, the areas where the police and other legal entities use the social media are those that are facing serious armed conflicts and where there are high risks related to violence and civilian causalities. For example, it is reported that as of March 2009, the internet penetration rate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was 0.3 percent, Sri Lanka was 3.7 percent, and no internet was available in North Korea (U.S. Department of Justice, 2013). Since communication through social media highly relies on the availability of reliable connectivity, the lack of it creates an information gap between the public and the law enforcement departments. It thus follows that the civilians have to rely in the Non-Governmental Organizations to get a glimpse of the happenings in their environs despite the efforts of sharing content on the social media. The problem with relying on partial means of communication such as NGO’s is that they present information in their best interests and therefore the information relayed may not present a true and fair view of the current status of things. This is disastrous since it leaves the public misinformed about the current status of things in their locality. Therefore, low internet penetration leads to misrepresentation of information from law enforcement departments.

The other concern that can be highlighted in the use of the media in law enforcement is that there is a challenge of misunderstanding following the trends of language barrier. The reality has brought into question the utility of the social media as a way of accurately and constructively monitoring violations of International humanitarian law in the remote areas. Usually, the most common areas are those that are non-Western conflict zones. For example, following the 2009 post-election violence in Iran, there was an issue of Western journalists and policy-makers preferring the information presented in the social media that that that was presented in the local languages (Herzberg & Steinberg, 2012). One of the journalists was overheard saying. “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi” (Herzberg & Steinberg, 2012, p. 511). Communicating in the local language has the effect of connecting deeply with the local community and therefore if law enforcement officers do not use this language in social media posts, it may not achieve the intended goals. It thus follows that with the lack of ability to present social media information that is generated in the local languages, the law enforcement process is flawed as it does not represent the true data on the ground. This is especially true since when people lack understandable information from the law enforcement departments, they turn to unofficial means of communication and therefore they end up misunderstanding the information regarding a certain situation or case under investigation (Gardson, 2015).

Reliability of the entertainment media as a tool for monitoring International humanitarian law violations in law enforcement has also been subject to questioning following the rising incidences of misinformation. The social media is arguably one of the fastest means in which information is shared in the present generation and is thus subject to misuse. Observers have identified that the networking sites are a domain of fiction and are thus subject to unreliable information. The examination of the subject in the context of law enforcement presents a more challenging outcome considering the chaotic nature of armed conflict. The manner in which data is gathered and analyzed in the crisis websites is a notable example of misinformation. For example, there have been reports of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Crisis Tracker in Uganda displaying variable data (Herzberg & Steinberg, 2012). Many of the reports that were recorded in the database lacked the details of the numbers of those who were executed. It thus follows that sharing the data with the public through such media represents a way of wrongly representing the true nature of situation as it is. The issues are further exacerbated by the filters, checks, and balances in the process of verifying material before they are presented to the public (Gadson, 2015). It is thus difficult to determine whether information is reliable or unreliable without the additional safeguards that are intended to ensure data accuracy.

Incidences of false personas being adopted and exploited on the media platform further portray the manner in which the media can be misrepresented in the law enforcement process. A common trend in the use of social media, for example, is the use of pseudonymous usernames that makes source verification difficult (Siner, 2013). It has thus created a situation where anonymity has facilitated manipulations with astroturfing and sockpuppeting becoming common. The fake internet accounts automatically repost and link content that is derived from other sources. The companies use the technology to bolster market presence. The trend has also been employed by the government with the US Air Force particularly being relevant in this case (Siner, 2013). The body has since issued a tender for the acquisition of persona management software that makes it possible to create at least 10 personas per user, the duplication of background and history, and ensuring there is consistency in cyber presence. Another related case that is on record is that of Qorvis resigning because of the work that the firm had done for the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Equatorial Guinea (Tully, 1999). It thus creates the impression of a trend of fake blog and websites that misrepresent the true nature of law enforcement in the efforts to increase the market and audience reach.

The news of hacking of Maine Police computers rocked the news in October 2016 and according to experts, this incidence left the police department vulnerable because of the information leak (Graves et al., 2016). Hacking occurs when unauthorized persons infiltrate a computer system or network and exploits information of the users. Hacking compromises the communication channels since the criminals are not objective and therefore release information that only portrays the users in bad light and therefore misrepresenting information to the public (Martellini et al., 2017). The hacking of police computers, social media accounts and networks leads to transmission of false or erroneous information hence crippling the efforts of law enforcement departments to present information in a true and fair manner. For instance, Iranian hackers staged a hack on State Department’s social media accounts and infiltrated issued social false posts that confused the public since they were not sure whether the state agency had gone rogue or was under attack (Graves et al., 2016). Such confusion that ensues after a hack causes panic and during these difficult moments the communication of information in a fair and truthful manner is hampered as hackers have their way. Therefore, though social media has increased the reach of information to many more people, it has increased incidences of hacking which results to grave misrepresentation of information.

Another great misrepresentation of law enforcement information that has been facilitated by social media is trial by social media where persons post their personal feelings and opinions about an ongoing investigation (Herzberg & Steinberg, 2012). Activities on Facebook and twitter can cause great threats to prosecutions and the right to fair trial since activities such as creation of hate groups creates a false representation of the case and this makes it extremely difficult for the law enforcement officers to make a case against the accused. For instance, during the case of Jill Meagher, social media users took it up to them to judge her and this caused anger, resentment and disillusion in the case (Siner, 2013). The situation was so dire that Victoria Police issued an appeal to the public to allow the law enforcement system and the criminal justice to carry out their work with no interference from the social media users. This appeal came in the wake of unofficial information which condemned Meagher making it so hard for the police communicate the right information to the public (Siner, 2013). Therefore, trial by social media which is made possible by the social media platforms contributes greatly to misrepresentation of law enforcement information since the opinions of the majority public usually drown the credible information from a law enforcement department.

Finally, the disadvantage associated with the use of the entertainment media as a basis for sharing content regarding law enforcement is that they are subject to censorship and retaliations. A growing trend where armed groups and states seek to silence reports in an effort to prevent the access of information by the public has called into question the efficacy of these media sites. The extreme cases involve situations where the international communities involved in law enforcement are prevented from executing their duties (Herzberg & Steinberg, 2012). The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that social media reporting can arise from a significantly larger group, making it possible for belligerent parties to impose greater measures meant to block information. It is further noted that the entertainment sites tend to share graphic content that is more revealing and that has the potential of attracting massive international presence. As a result, the armed forces have a tendency of retaliating in notably violent measures that are beyond the limits of censorship with the intention of silencing monitors (Tully, 1999). For example, during the 2011 Arab Spring, the social media was used for energizing mass protests and movements incidences of deliberate targeting of civilians being reported. The result was that the governing bodies of Iran, Syria, and Libya ended up imposing censorship on the social media sites leading to the complete blockage of internet. The goal of the move was to control the access of internet sources of information and serve political dissent and cover up the mass violations that had been done that had resulted in massive war crimes. It thus implies that the entertainment media may not be as honest as the public may perceive it to be because it may be censored to serve political and national interests.

In summary, it is affirmed that the mass and social media sites tend to misrepresent the information that the public perceives and are thus not as reliable as they could be thought to be from a superficial perspective. The major challenges that are associated with the media sites in the process of law enforcement related to the unreliability, problem of trial by social media, subject to censorship, hacking of social media accounts, problems with authenticity, and the limited access that is apparent. It thus follows that for the social media and other mainstream media to serve the public interest, there should be a critical analysis of the way of reducing passage of wrong information, challenges of access, and the profound manipulation.


Atlanta. (2012). LexisNexis Risk Solutions; Role of Social Media in Law Enforcement Significant and Growing. Journal of Engineering, 7957.

Gadson, M. (2015). #MediaImagesMatter: The Cause and Effect of Media Stereotypes on People of Color. Broad Social Justice. Retrieved from

Graves, J. T., Acquisti, A., & Christin, N. (2016). Big data and bad data: on the sensitivity of security policy to imperfect information. The University of Chicago Law Review, 117-137.

Herzberg, A., & Steinberg, G. M. (2012). Is there a role of social media in monitoring and enforcement. Israel Law Review, 45(May 2011), 493–536.

Martellini, M., Abaimov, S., Gaycken, S., & Wilson, C. (2017). Vulnerabilities and Security Issues. In Information Security of Highly Critical Wireless Networks (pp. 11-15). Springer International Publishing.

Siner, E. (2013). The Promises And Pitfalls Of Social Media — For Police. Retrieved from

Tully, E. J. (1999). Mass media and law enforcement. National Executive Institute Associates. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Justice. (2013). Social Media and Tactical Considerations For Law Enforcement. Community Oriented Policing Service. Retrieved from media and tactical considerations for law enforcement 2013.pdf

May 17, 2023




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