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Posts Tagged ‘journalism

Rob Manuel gave what seems to have been an impassioned defence of “the bottom half of the internet”, saying that “troll” had become the equivalent of “chav” — a word used to demonise and silence people who don’t have power. Rob’s argument appears to echo the joke of defining a “troll” as “the least famous of two people arguing on Twitter.” Rob seems to have equated the disdain felt for the “proles” by the upper echelons of society with the disdain felt for the “commentards” by the chattering columnist classes of the media.

Rob Manuel via Martin Belam

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Since way before my first big project at openDemocracy.net I’ve been interested in the line. Separating ‘author’ and reader, broadcaster and receiver, powerful and powerlesser. In the physical world innovators are moving to challenge the authority / audience divide also, to “turn museums into social, participatory organisations – with all the challenges this entails.”

In online forums, we write for positive and negative response, for the conversation, for the pursuit of deeper understanding, for the feedback we get and the resulting whole. I love this line on Gransnet which sums it up neatly:

 it isn’t my thread. Once I’ve pressed the “post message” button, it belongs to everyone on gransnet

Bags

This sentiment is endlessly difficult to sell or even explain to those whose livelihoods have depended on the commodification of information, ideas and opinion. As the recent Leveson report has shown, the advent of the industrial press has led to cultural particularities both positive and negative, but ultimately a participatory attitude is hard to adopt, by people below and above the line(PDF), when equity is not appreciated or sought.

While there is any inbalance of financial and reputational consequences for what is written, the public conversation cannot be the best, most inclusive, most honest version of itself. But we can attempt to aid it in this direction, starting with:

  • Payment for both starting and continuing the conversation
  • Pseudonymity so that one participating individual’s reputational and legal liability does not outweigh the others
  • A standard for clear and attributable apologies / corrections for inaccuracies and mistakes by those on any side of any lines

This is the read-write-edit web, and when we make mistakes, we are told. We are told by our followers, our fans, our enemies, by people we’ve never met, from all around the world. We can correct ourselves, and be easily and swiftly corrected online.

Lord McAlpine, there’s no need to sue so many of my fellow tweeters, we’re all over eachother’s mistakes, and we will lose so much more than we gain as a society if your action means we start pre-emptively restricting what is shared. It is unimaginable to be accused of something so terrible as you have been, and I can only sympathise with the unfortunate situation you find yourself in. But you and your lawyers should take into account Twitter’s unique properties as a peer to peer communications platform, and high value for our civic present and future, before threatening it, and quite specifically threatening the act of reacting to a television programme, discussing it, and sharing what has been said by others (a standard and highly popular way of using Twitter in the UK).

Previous moral panics and outrage about incorrect information being posted on the web have been countered by the fact that as quickly as false information is passed around the Internet, so too is it corrected. Quite famously, this has been used to demonstrate the value and accuracy of Wikipedia as an encyclopaedic resource. And stands in stark contrast to the slower method which has to be used in print media: printing a correction in a subsequent edition to apologize for any error.

Lord McAlpine, I’m afraid your case is one for all of us who care about UK civil liberties to watch as it risks being muddled by those who neither use Twitter or understand how it is used and / or are driven by ruling-elite-political posturing, quite specifically in relation to Sally Bercow – a tweeter whom it is no secret that your side (the Tories) of our political spectrum love to hate. It would be a travesty for us all if this adds up to fundamental curbs on the way Twitter is used in the UK – via legislation and self-censorship driven by fear.

Last week this small commentary that appeared in London’s Metro newspaper shocked me – declaring that internet service providers (presumably Robin Thompson means Twitter here(!!) not the people who run the pipes) should give right of reply (a journalistic pre-publication norm) before something is tweeted – in other words, we may as well pack up tweeting altogether as I’m sure Twitter would rather flip the UK switch off than become some sort of uber-real-time-editor-in-chief-on-steroids. 

In my view, (and, granted, this may be quite obvious to Twitter-natives, but let’s remember we are a statistical minority), we need different rules for social media, because social media is different. And indeed there are some in development at the moment for the UK.

We must beware of the traditional lobby which will straightjacket the democratisation of public political discourse online just as it is beginning if we are not very careful.

We must make the argument and fight for a legislative environment that facilitates a world where everyone can be informed and critically thinking citizens… citizens that make mistakes, of course, but mistakes that should be contrasted with those made by institutions, and mitigated by the fact we can quickly apologise, and put them right.

We must win the argument that it is a better media environment when we can have our eyes and ears and mouths open, and unprecedented capabilities to communicate with one another.

Sure, we should be responsible. But we should cater for errors in different ways when it comes to public, peer-to-peer discourse. A good rule is individuals should be treated as citizens, with special protections for their freedom of speech and right to share, until they write or speak with the authority of a collective, institutional platform.

Libel laws in the digital realm should be focused on policing institutions, or failing this, at the originator of offensive online materials, not on everyone who shares or discusses them.

Our rapidly evolving communications environment may distribute more widely the potential for error, but it also redistributes our chances to learn fast, to hear others, and to be corrected. We don’t need to be gagged Lord McAlpine, we all knew the story was wrong, really, really fast. So please end this revengeful race to the bottom, for all our sakes.

Image Credits: Censorship image by Tyler Menezes; Twitter illustration by Edwards McGowan

The toughest thing for the probabilistic magazine brand is to find some kind of coherence. In the traditional sense, coherence as a package of interrelated content is gone. The story is the unit that matters, after all. But a big part of the value we add *is* structuring the world in a consistent way. So, the question becomes: what can form the basis for a new coherence for magazines?

One answer that is specific to The Atlantic but extensible is very old: moral purpose. This magazine was founded as an abolitionist publication and that helped structure the varied voices that ran in its pages through the early days.

Alexis Madrigal  

This quick checklist is aimed at communications professionals on Twitter… who are likely to be, or want to be, tweeting for employers, clients or broadly as an individual in the industry:

1 State any client relationship within the tweet

If you mention a client, or share their news, or promotional content, whether they have asked you to or not, in a tweet, you should declare the relationship – for example this can be done neatly by using the #client hashtag

2 Declare financial compensation

Any tweets sent by any individual as part of paid advertising or social PR activity must include the #ad hashtag in line with UK regulations. This should be applied to your own tweets and if you ask any another person (e.g. blogger, celebrity, other influencer) to tweet for your client. If you are tweeting for any extended period of time as part of sponsored activity, also consider including a short description of the promotion in your Twitter bio during that period for absolute transparency.

3 Check any link before sharing

Read everything you tweet or retweet before sharing, if the tweet contains a link- check what it leads to – if you share without doing this your followers may not get what you bargained for. Sometimes tweeters will change or use uneexpected links  to spread viruses or other objectionable content, or for comedy value like @Glinner did here (the link he posts is not actually from the Huffington post as you might expect):

OK, an extreme example, but expecting this, or not? 😮 (Tip: this is not the original link the Huffington Post tweeted!)

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4 Use the delete button

If you make a mistake, and no one else has yet screen-shotted or picked up on it… you can delete your tweet to avoid most people seeing it. That is, unless you are a US politician who falls foul of Politwoops:

5 Absolve your employer in your bio

Specify in your Twitter bio that your views are your own – unless you are specifically tweeting as a mouthpiece for your employer.

6 Double check your tweets when using management tools

Be careful if you’re managing multiple accounts (employer, client, your own, your secret identities) on a tool like Hootsuite, it’s all too easy to post to the wrong account by mistake. Always check which accounts are ticked and review the account you thought you were going to post to after you hit send, to see if your tweet does indeed appear there.

Companies who find themselves at the centre of a high-profile mistake like this would do well to take a leaf out of the Red Cross’s book and not take it too seriously. When the tweet above was erroneously put out on their Twitter account, they responded with humour and wit, rather than condemnation and drama, thus:

7 Build respectful, reciprocal relationships

Reciprocal relationships (you follow them, they follow you) with people you most want to reach is where Twitter is most valuable to communication pros, especially for those last minute asks. Always operate on a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, basis, and try these tips for taking your use of Twitter to the next level.

Bloggers and sites need revenue to survive… so sponsored content and links are a norm we have become used to. Most web users understand and appreciate its place to help support the content and engagement they love… they grasp that flexible online business models are integral to quality and innovation. But the key from a publisher’s perspective and any brand placing content – is disclosure. iVillage is currently doing this in a neat way on its home page – highlighting, and tactfully disclosing content on its site that provides a revenue stream via sponsorship:

For formal guidance on staying within the law when sponsoring content or bloggers online, follow the links below:

The purpose of writing on blogs, community sites like Comment is free, and much of social media is to start or further a conversation – not to share a few writerly pearls of wisdom… Too much of the conversation about comment threads is about how writers – people paid to serve an audience – feel.

James Ball


This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

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