Public figures differ from community to community

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Public figures differ from community to community

Nov 02, 2017

Melania Chaves, Pepperdine student

Many times people see as synonyms the words "public figure" and "celebrity". I believe a celebrity is definitely a public figure, but not every public figure is a celebrity. This being said, a public figure can be defined as a person whose name is out in "public" and has some sort of influence on a group of people or in the world in general.

In today's society, it is particularly easy to become known through the Internet or through some social media platform. For instance, someone can gain Instagram followers in months becoming a "social media influencer", and without the necessity of being a celebrity, he or she could be seen as a public figure.

I am currently intervening at an advertising agency where I've had to reach out to different "social media influencers", on particularly on Instagram, to help promote different brands or campaigns. Some of this "influencers" are very known by Americans, while others are barely known. Either way, both have a strong social media presence, influencing a certain group of people, therefore making them public figures.

I believe the line to define who is and who is not a public figure depends on the amount of influence they can have on others. Not only this, but a public figure normally has an interest in people knowing about their lives, are interested in social or political issues, and like to be known in some sort of way.

I also believe there are two different types of public figures. The first would be the top of celebrities, such as actors or actresses or politicians such as the president of the United States. The next category can be defined as people like the pastor at your church, who has a strong influence on you and your neighbors and has interest in society as a whole and people knowing what he has to say.

People such as your shy next door neighbor, or the local grocery man, draw the line in being a public figure. This is because of these people, although they do have influence in their family and friends, as they are not so much concerned with maintaining an image for society or a bigger group of people.

Melania Chaves, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the prompt:

As you've been reading cases this week, you may have noticed that the rules for defamation are different for private and public figures. That's why tabloids can get away with saying crazy things about the Kardashians, even though we know they're just a made-up family who is not actually biologically related. But the world is changing. More and more people are gaining recognition as influencers on social media. Brand companies are now targeting micro-influencers to push product as people tend to trust recommendations from their friends instead of people with huge followings. All of this is to say that it seems that what constitutes as a public figure today is not the same as what would constitute as a public figure 20 years ago. But obviously, not everyone with a twitter account is a public figure… or are they? Where do we draw a line? Define a public figure.

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