Tag Archives: journalism

“Trial by social media worry in case of Jill’s Meagher’s death” – Social media and the law

Jill Meagher’s recent disappearance and death has touched many people. How do we know? Because social media has been a platform for the sharing of news and emotional comments from an enormous number of people. Not only family and friends shared Jill’s photo on Facebook, it seems the shock of Jill’s disappearance and fear for her life has touched many others, and they have been publicly expressing their reactions. The Facebook page set up to find Jill currently has over 83,000 likes.

There’s no denying that social media – in particular, Facebook and Twitter – have been harnessed by people who believe that dissemination of information through these media will reach the widest audience – and hopefully make a difference to the life of Jill Meagher. Sadly, although this journalism from the ground has allegedly aided the search for Jill, and led to the arrest of Adrian Ernest Bayley, the outcome has been tragic, and people have continued to use social media for their outpouring of sadness and condolences to Jill’s family and friends. Now the Facebook and Twitter updates point to the possibility of interference with the legal proceedings if people continue to use social media as a platform for anger and accusation.

“Overnight, the sentiment was very much of grief and sadness and now this morning, anger is starting creep into what is being shared and re-shared.”

With that anger comes responsibility to social media users, who become content publishers when they post. That may require a knowledge of media law.

Thomas Meagher, Jill’s husband, today urged people to consider what they posted on Twitter and Facebook.

“While I appreciate all the support, I would just like to mention that negative comments on social media may hurt legal proceedings so please be mindful of that.”

This message has been tweeted by the Victorian Police and others today. Julie Posetti is one of these people.

Julie is a prominent journalist and journalism academic, and is currently writing a PhD dissertation on The Twitterisation of Journalism, examining social media’s transformation of professional journalism. In today’s article in The Age she explains the issues associated with public commentary about the case and the accused.

“In this particular case, it would be awful to think about the potential consequences including an incapacity to prosecute somebody because of trial by social media, for example,” said Ms Posetti, who is writing a PhD on Twitter’s role in journalism.

“We all are very familiar with the term trial by media and it’s a real problem, but we also now need to be aware of the potential implications of trial by social media.

“Practically, [and speaking] generically, as soon as a person is arrested, we need to stop talking about what we think we know about that individual because there is a risk that his or her defence lawyers could argue that there’s no possibility for a fair trial in this country for the person who’s accused, because so much information has been published.

I’m ignorant about social media laws – do we have clear and current laws in Australia relating to social media? A quick Google search led to audio and transcript of an ABC Radio National “Law Report” episode with guests Mark Pearson, Professor of Journalism at Bond University, and Julie Posetti.

Photo by Jeffery Turner on Flickr

The transcript of this episode can be read here. We should read this to our students as we discuss the whole new area of legal implications associated with the issue of personal and public blending through social media. We need to inform ourselves about these issues, and schools should be focusing more urgently on these matters as social media becomes the way the world works, not just kids on Facebook – although that needs to be dealt with too – but the way news is shared, the way businesses are run, the way projects are created and managed, the way people collaborate globally with today’s technical possibilities. Why would we put aside important curriculum to discuss social media in our classrooms? Well, as Mark Pearson says in the ABC interview,

And only last year we had a British gentleman who posted a witty tweet, or what he thought was a witty tweet, about blowing up an airport, and he was just expressing it as satire, he said, because he was frustrated that snow had stopped flights from this particular airport, but unfortunately national security and police agencies don’t always have a sense of humour, and they certainly didn’t in that case, and his house was raided, he was arrested, he was charged with national security offence and he finished up being released, of course, but he suffered a whole lot through the process and spent some time in the big house, at least temporarily, as a result of it. Something none of us need in our lives.

The implications of social media are vast and serious, but the access to the new form of ‘journalism’ is there for anyone with a phone or internet access. If teachers are uncomfortable in this new and always changing arena, then all the more reason to learn together. It’s not a fad, it’s not going to go away.

Mark Pearson explains social media law:

The basic laws are pretty much the same as they applied to journalists and media organisations in the past. So, your fundamental law of defamation, contempt, confidentiality, all of these areas, you know, the core law is still the same, it’s just that some circumstances have changed with new media and social media.

It’s so easy to post that short, quick post without thinking, and without education our young people are more likely to get into trouble. When are schools going to integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum, along with other literacies? How are we going to prepare for this as teachers?

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Iran uses Twitter to shout out

Today on FriendFeed I read Howard Rheingold’s message:

Smartmobbery moves to the core of world events more and more frequently

and this link to Smartmobs, a Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold.  Here you can read Twitter: Following the Aftermath of the Iranian Election

Twitter appears to be one of the most reliable channels to receive a first-person account of what is happening in the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian “election”.  Tor Henning Ueland is actively compiling a a list of Iranians using Twitter.  Also, you can follow the realtime results for the #iranelection here.

The power of microblogging is obvious here. Twitter has moved to a crucial role in communicating news when other forms of communication, such as official news, mobile phones, sms chat, and websites are no longer functioning. Twitterer @Persiankiwi is being followed by many, many people – 4,916 when I last checked. These are the sorts of things he has tweeted:

websites being shut down fast. having trouble accessing tweeters. #Iranelection20 minutes ago from web

students arrested last night at tehran uni: Mansoor Mousavi, Vahid Sarfi, Amir Afzali, Kazem Rahimi. #Iranelection23 minutes ago from web

advice to people joing march. tavel toether with friends. do not travel alone. keep track of friends. #Iranelection26 minutes ago from web

 I’ve selected other tweets which give current updates on the situation in Iran, as well as the urgency of the people.

nR: RT @persiankiwi My twitter was hacked. am back in again. they are shutting down all internet services. #Iranelection
 
@NorwAnon They insist to take exam to show e.th is normal. No news about our exams but if I’ll tweet it!about 3 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

It’s 4th day that SMS service is down. #IranElectionabout 3 hours ago from mobile web

I’m calling my friends to get some fresh news but they don’t answerabout 3 hours ago from mobile web

I have an exam @ 14 (At national time). I’m a little worried, ppl are going to street again tomorrow morning and afternoon!about 10 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

@mahdi: I use this to update my twitter account http://www.twit2d.comabout 13 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

RT @mahdi @keyvan: Oh oh! Hearing that they have brought tanks to cities!about 13 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

@_Sober : Rasht, 3 minibus security guards on Gaz square surrounding the square.about 15 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

RT @StopAhmadi It’s getting rough in Rasht tonight. Armed forces waiting for ppl to make their move to beat them #IranElectionabout 15 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

RT @HatefRad They arrested Guilan university students and took them to an unknown place! #IranElectionabout 16 hours ago from Twitstat Mobile

 I can’t find my friends on streets.about 17 hours ago from mobile web

 They attacked protestors students in Guilan university. Blood and violence here… #IranElectionabout 17 hours ago from mobile web

Police arrested 100+ protestors in Rasht. #IranElectionabout 18 hours ago from mobile web

It’s third day they disabled SMS service #IranElectionabout 18 hours ago from mobile web

Mousavi’s meeting with the Supreme Leader http://bit.ly/si7rq (via… http://ff.im/3ZxBNless than 5 seconds ago from FriendFeed

RT @reuterswire Ahmadinejad due in Russia on first trip since vote: YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters). http://tinyurl.com/mt7bpkless than a minute ago from web

RT: @alirezasha: lost in lots of rumors and lies in news/چرا نمیشه به اخبار اعتماد کرد؟about 1 hour ago from TwitterFox

Twitter Users Put CNN to Shame on Iran Riot Coverage #iranelectionabout 1 hour ago from TwitterFox

RT: @Change_for_Iran: We’re trying to stop Masood from going outside! there is no way they will listen to us right now. #iranelectionabout 9 hours ago from TwitterFox

@Change_for_Iran what can we do? where are you? #iranelectionabout 9 hours ago from TwitterFox

RT: @Change_for_Iran:typing as fastest as I can in bth English&Farsi,Still we need outside help,I really don’t want to be captured by Ansarabout 9 hours ago from TwitterFox

@flashpolitique we are moving either toward a north korean style dictatorship or a more open and democratic societyabout 9 hours ago from TwitterFox in reply to flashpolitique

URGENT GET THIS OUT TO IRANIANS: ghalamnews confirms mousavi & karroubi WILL BE AT MARCH IT IS ON 100% AS OF NOW #iranelection2 minutes ago from web

RT @persiankiwi please tell all – march is NOT CANCELLED today. Mousavi is in danger of being killed. #Iranelectionabout 1 hour ago from web

Many roads are blocked in Tehran right now, it is like martial law out there right now. Government is panicking #iranelectionabout 1 hour ago from web

RT @persiankiwi I am online for few minutes. total communication blackout here. gov panicking. very dangerous. #Iranelectionabout 1 hour ago from web

intrepidteacher No matter what happens nothing will be the same in Iran again. I have been waiting for this my whole life. #iranelection

Irannews

Many pictures have been posted. Here are a couple:

http://twitpic.com/7fmr0 

 http://twitpic.com/7fmo8

Here are more videos and pictures of demonstrations in Iran 

http://tehranlive.org/

I’m following developments on Twitter about the situation in Iran with interest – regular updates and personal information from people who are in the thick of these riots make this kind of news more dynamic than news from a traditional source. This is the new journalism.

This is very disturbing. I could read the updates all night, but I’m going to stop. Here is the last tweet I’ve read:

RT @drewb : #Iranelection web blocks via @IranPishi : “cant update topics on twitter anymore.cant open any webpage. hope you can see this.
You would have to be shortsighted to have read these developments and not recognised the role Twitter has played in new communication possibilities.

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