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The Desensitisation and Blocking of Social Media Platforms in Times of Crisis

Turkey’s decision to impose a media blackout following the terror attack in Ankara last week isn’t that different from what the British Government did during the Second Word War. Except from the fact that Britain’s D-Notices weren’t legally enforceable (although the media always complied) and that it was not also faced with trying to police the Wild West of social media.

The Turkish Government imposed a broadcast ban on images of the moment of the blast and any gruesome images with the warning that those media organisations that did not comply would face a “full blackout”. Imposing similar restrictions on global social media sharing sites is more difficult however. But Turkish users of Twitter and Facebook found that they concurrently had troubles accessing these sites in the wake of the explosions.

The reason the Turkish Government gave for the restrictions was to prevent the dissemination of images “that create a feeling of panic”. In an age when gruesome and bloody images have sadly become commonplace, these restrictions might seem odd to us. The images of the murderers waving their bloodied hands following the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby are burned into the minds of many and while shot by members of the public, they were broadcast and printed (usually without pixilation) in the mainstream media.

Equally, barely a day goes by when the Daily Mail doesn’t see fit to publish details of the latest ISIS barbarity, complete with compulsory image of the victim, kneeling in anticipation of his beheading.

It’s terrible that such images, which would once have been thought far beyond the boundaries of good taste have almost become commonplace and expected. Our desensitisation is a tragic consequence of a world in turmoil and the ability for all of us, should we choose, to find and explore its darkest corners, red in tooth and claw.

Shocking just doesn’t seem to be shocking anymore unless you are living under the Turkish regime. On a parochial scale our immunity to disturbing images is also perhaps being played out in the charity sector. It has been a familiar trope to use shock tactics in ads, showing the horrific realities in order to encourage donations from the public.

With our senses now used to horror on a daily basis, maybe there’s a shift into them showing something more inspiring. Revealing the results of the donation is a new narrative of how good can triumph over evil. In an uncertain world, that’s an increasingly attractive concept to grasp hold of.