Mariamz

Posts Tagged ‘regulation

Aside

Posted on: February 4, 2013

[I am just testing out the WordPress ‘aside’ format] – To say that whereas journalists have traditionally been paid by revenues which come through advertising (by their institution) – newer purveyors of news and opinion: bloggers, and other social media stars in their own right, can earn money from publishing on an individual basis. Personally organising their own advertising or sponsorship to appear on their blogs or other social channels. They hope or even expect to be paid in exchange for covering stories from brands, and why shouldn’t they? OFT rules on this are clear – it is prohibited to use editorial content to promote a product, where the trader has paid for the promotion, without making that clear in the content. Disclosure is key.

As an aside: individual publishers deserve paying too

technoutopianism. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’ve changed, but in so many ways you haven’t—and I see you more clearly now… you’re selfish. You never really wanted what was best for me, or for any of the rest of us; you wanted deregulation and radical individualism, wanted us out of your way so you could take the whole world—the Whole Earth—for your playground. Hawai’i is for lovers, and your shiny silver future was only for a network of the already privileged and powerful. You got a taste of “the Long Boom”; we got “likes” and LOLcats.

Whitney Erin Boesel

This appeared in a Daily Mail piece yesterday in relation to Sally Bercow’s latest mis-tweet. (Bercow – whose Twitter account has now been sucked down the memory hole – had identified an under-aged person in a tweet that a UK court order had banned from being named.)

I’d just like to focus in on the unnamed ‘legal experts’ here stating that using Twitter constitutes publication. In my view it is rather odd and irresponsible for Sally to have named the person in the way she did (and if this was knowingly done, is clearly in ‘contempt of court’). But overall, I maintain we need different rules for sharing and discussing on social media.

On social media, 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.

First of all, because restrictions on public civic discourse are generally harmful and counter-productive, and secondly, because collective media institutions have a special legal status (and usually access to far superior legal counsel) which means they can be pursued by authorities (and wronged individuals like Lord McAlpine) as institutional collectives.

Without separate rules for individuals on social media, people will frequently foul of the law at great expense just for airing their views or unwittingly sharing problematic items they have come across in public environments or from bigger media. Or fall silent – and we surely don’t want that..

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

Last weekend I took part in a Cambridge Festival of Ideas panel discussion on whether we are being ‘sold online’ alongside Michal Kosinski of Cambridge University, Professor Bill Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute and Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch.

During this I proposed that practitioners who deal with collecting, processing, analysing and sharing social media data can operate according to a simple principle, to weight privacy in favour of individuals, and transparency towards institutions. For indeed, such responsible data dealing is essential for attaining and retaining trust in 21st century institutions…


Delving further into what this means in practice I put forward the following framework, which can be used by marketers to clearly document and ask questions of social data usage:

Best Practice Data Dealers Recipe Card

Note: my recipe card is loosely based on Tony Benn’s five questions to power

We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation… We need to move forward to new, more extensive and deeper forms of democracy…

The existing national-state organisations have to be part of a wider and much better coordinated structure, which involves democratic regional institutions on all the continents, the reform of the International Court of Justice, a fairer and more balanced International Criminal Court and a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as the embryo of a future World Parliament.

Yet, this institutional change will not be successful if it only accrues from the actions of a self-appointed elite. On the contrary, it must come from a socio-political process open to all human beings, with the goal of creating a participative global democracy.

David Hayes, sharing the Manifesto for Global Democracy, signed by Daniele Archibugi, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, David Held, Fernando Iglesias, Lucio Levi, Giacomo Marramao, George Monbiot, Heikki Patomäki, Mary Kaldor, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Vandana Shiva, Andy Strauss

Disclosure:  David Hayes is a former openDemocracy colleague

A few weeks ago I saw Wael Ghonim at LSE speak about his new book Revolution 2.0. I found the talk most enjoyable – his authenticity and passion were a pleasure to listen to. The discussion afterwards was mainly on the political situation in Egypt – understandably given the session was run by the LSE’s Middle East centre (not the Media and Communications school where I recently studied).

But when I fortunate enough to have the chance to ask a question I dived in with a social media one… asking him about anonymity in relation to his administration of the Facebook page credited with being a catalyst for the Egyptian revolution… given the success he described with bringing people together would have been impossible if real names were used throughout the process (he had mentioned earlier that working with others on the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page .. they did not reveal their true identities to one another during several months of organising). I also cheekily asked that he comment on the Google+ policy on real names in relation to this vital civic question..

Wael did not answer at great length – he said he was not on Google+ (nothing if not apparently honest to a fault!?) and that anonymity on the Facebook platform did not matter so much to his activities, since whilst running a Facebook page no one can publicly see who the admin is. He also said he trusted that Facebook would not have done anything dangerous with his data… that they could have traced him via IP anyway (I will cover this in a later post).. and he trusted the platform would not have misused what it knew about him.

I was grateful for this answer – but to pick back up on it… I would argue our brief exchange leaves wide open a rich and urgent territory for consideration in relation to online participation, democracy and identity:

  • In a short-term ‘revolutionary’ situation – using a social platform hosted in one country to discuss issues, organise and challenge the state of another may well be highly possible (for now)
  • But anonymity / pseudonymity which enables citizens to develop understanding and contribute to political commentary (particularly over extended periods of time) without fear of judgement or consequence from peers, colleagues, employers and state powers is not being built into the major social platforms in popular use by the mainstream in western democracies (for example, when you comment on the wall of a Facebook page – your real name is publicly visible)
  • As Sanna Trygg, myself and many others have argued, online comments can contribute to healthy public debate in general and open our media up to a more diverse and democratic discourse
  • However any social platform which stores real identities with political commentary may be used as a ‘technology of power’ which enables users’ opinion and interest data to be used against them for state or commercial purposes
  • Furthermore, contrary to the attitude of much ‘big media’ towards lowly unidentifiable commenters, on average, it has been found that online participation using pseudonyms often results in higher quality participation than that conducted using ‘real names’

This indicates the need for urgent attention to ways in which identity can be handled differently, more sensitively, by all using, designing, hosting and regulating participation online. If anonymity / pseudonymity as an option is more valuable and indeed safer for individual safety and liberty in any online forum where critical civic dialogue takes place… the case must be made and won, the software adapted and norms altered… while they still can be.


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