July 30 2012
Commentary: Criticism of Olympic social media guidelines is misplaced
main image via helpmyseo.com
Commentary by Chris Syme, CoSIDA New Media/Technology Committee Chair via her website cksyme.org
In this blog post on her website, Chris Syme, CoSIDA's Chair of the New Media/Technology Committee, cautions those who are critical of the IOC's strict social media policies. As we've seen so far, scandals and athlete explusions have taken place to the athletes' poor decisions in using social media to vent or serve up racist comments. Although they may appear restrictive, there are several things we need to keep in mind in order to sort through the Olympic policy.
Several bloggers have taken to the digitalsphere to criticize the International Olympic Committee’s social media guidelines. I’m not surprised that some of the athletes themselves, especially American athletes, believe they are being censored. Although they may appear restrictive, there are several things we need to keep in mind in order to sort through the policy.
- The Olympics are a global sporting event. Like most other large sporting events where the organization has sold corporate rights and has strict journalistic credentialing, the right to broadcast the news of the event will be strictly controlled. Journalists and their media outlets have to go through a strict approval process and agree to the IOC guidelines for reporting and photographing the event in order to receive media status. It’s important that the IOC allow those credentialed journalists to broadcast the news of the events. Media outlets have a substantial corporate investment sending journalists to the games, and they should have “news” considerations. The IOC isn’t stopping athletes from tweeting or blogging their own experiences. Athletes don’t have, nor should they have journalist status. That is the nature of these types of contests. If an athlete wants to be a news reporter, they should have to go through the same credentialing process as media.
- The Olympics are a security nightmare. We don’t have to go too far into the recent past to see times when terrorists have used the Olympics games as a venue to make a statement (Atlanta in 1996, Munich in 1972). Limiting access to the Olympic village, including pictures, is a security matter, not a restrictive limitation on athlete’s freedom. All considerations the IOC deems necessary to protect the athletes should be our first concern. As Americans, we are so used to getting a voyeuristic peek into everyone’s lives that we have a hard time balancing our “need to know” against the safety of others. It’s wise on these rare occasions to understand that business as usual will not take place.
- The Olympics are a cross-cultural event. Not every country has the same open-minded mindset we do in the west about sharing personal information and pictures. If the Olympics are to be a true multicultural event, we need to be sensitive to the cultural restrictions of others. It isn’t fair to force everyone to be an open fire hose of personal information as we’ve come to expect in the western cultures. It may be a minor inconvenience for some of the athletes that are used to sharing their every thought and observation on Twitter, but it also might be a good lesson in self-discipline to learn how to live with the guidelines for the benefit of all involved.
When we make observations about how social media is being used at the Olympics, we should probably keep in mind that the IOC really doesn’t care about “promoting the event” via social media. But what they are doing is encouraging the athletes to blog, tweet, and post about what we all really want to hear from them anyway: what’s it like to be an Olympic athlete. I don’t need a swimmer to tweet out that the U.S. men’s basketball team just lost to Brazil in overtime - I want to know what his experience was like competing in a top global athletic event against the best competition in the world. That is news that only he can provide.