Interviewed on BBC Three Counties Radio about Elon Musk takeover of Twitter

Elon Musk floated the idea to charge governments and companies on the microblogging site

Yesterday I was interviewed by Roberto Perrone on BBC Three Counties Radio about Elon Musk’s proposal to charge commercial companies and governments to use the platform. I raised some questions about the desirability and feasibility of Musk’s plan to make algorithms open source, authenticate humans and remove bots, and whether users might leave the site if these charges are introduced.

Thanks to Rob, Usman, and the BBC Three Counties Radio team for the interview. 

It can be accessed here

Co-author of ViewDIGITAL submission to DCMS enquiry on local journalism

Una Murphy and I have submitted evidence on behalf of ViewDIGITAL to the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee enquiry on the sustainability of local journalism.

In the submission, we discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on independent news outlets such as ViewDIGITAL. Our recommendations include making interest free loans available to local news organisations, and the creation of a public media trust to support the hyperlocal sector in the future. The submission can be viewed here

Fourth review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society published in the Peace Journalist Magazine

Peace Journalist Magazine, April 2022

The fourth review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society has been published this week in the Peace Journalist Magazine.

Kathryn Johnston reflects on how online platforms provide spaces for alternative narratives and more disbursing trends such as the threats against women journalists in Northern Ireland. Some quotes from the review are below:

“This is no arid academic text. Reilly quotes extensively from many of those engaging in debate, referring to them both by their actual names, where appropriate, and their  social media identities. That is immensely helpful; and certainly, drawing attention to these narratives and explorations of contested spaces is a rich and profitable seam for  all of us to mine”

“Paul Reilly’s book makes an invaluable contribution to the debate on the potential of citizen activity on online platforms to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. It deserves attention”  

I am very grateful to Kathryn for such a thoughtful review of the book, which can be read in full below:

Review of Digital Contention written by Kathryn Johnston

Digital Contention in a Divided Society can be purchased here.

New article on Mary Beard Twitterstorm published in Information, Communication & Society

New article published in Information, Communication & Society this month

Ceri Ashwell and I have an article out this week in Information, Communication & Society. Entitled ‘Exploring Discourses of Whiteness in the Mary Beard Oxfam-Haiti Twitterstorm’, this paper draws on the results of a content analysis of tweets discussing the Twitterstorm.

The abstract can be read below:

Social media may have amplified the Black Lives Matter movement, but companies like Facebook are often accused of not doing enough to address online hate speech. These platforms nevertheless have the potential to facilitate informal learning about the color blind racism through which whites rationalize the inequalities and injustices experienced by People of Color (PoC). This paper adds to the emergent literature in this area by exploring a high-profile Twitterstorm in February 2018 following a tweet from Cambridge University Professor Mary Beard about the sexual misconduct of Oxfam aid workers in Haiti. Academics like Dr Priya Gopal faced much criticism for suggesting the tweet was evidence of the white fragility and privilege to which they were frequently subjected. A qualitative content analysis of 1718 unique tweets containing ‘Mary Beard’, posted between 16 and 20 February 2018, was conducted to assess whether there was much evidence of agonistic debate between critics and supporters of Beard about whiteness. Results indicate that there were twice as many tweets criticising Beard for her performative white privilege and frailty than those defending her. While the framing of the Twitterstorm was generally agonistic, there was little evidence of informal learning, with PoC conspicuously under-represented. Indeed, the burden of talking about racism and whiteness fell on the few PoC in the corpus, in much the same way as the ‘pre-social media’ era.

50 free copies of the article are available here and a preprint can be downloaded here.

Many thanks to the editors and reviewers for their help in getting this out. And big congratulations to Ceri for her first publication!

BBC Radio WM interview on social media and’fake news’ during Ukrainian conflict   

Footage from a 2020 TV series was shared to suggest the Ukraine war was a hoax

Yesterday I was interviewed by Elise Evans on BBC Radio WM Breakfast about social media and ‘fake news’ during the Ukrainian conflict. This was in response to a report that footage from a disaster movie filmed in Birmingham had been used on social media to suggest the war was a hoax.

We discussed what online platforms are doing to deal with ‘fake news’ and how we can identify false images and videos circulating online.

Thanks to Elise, Louise, Megan and the BBC Radio WM team for the interview.

It can be accessed here

Expert testimony at Council of Europe Parliamentary Committee hearing on the control of online communication 

Technology Digital Tablet Modern Internet Online

Last Friday, I provided expert testimony to a hearing organised by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. The session was titled “the control of online communication: a threat to media pluralism, freedom of information and human dignity”

The agenda can be found here

In my contribution to the hearing, I drew on my research on the role of online platforms in amplifying hate speech.  My recommendations included a call for policymakers to lobby online platforms to issue warning messages to those using hate speech on their sites, a recognition that content removal might displace the problem to less popular platforms, and for counter-speech interventions to be promoted as a more effective way to address these behaviours.

Many thanks to Eugen Cibotaru for the invitation and his help with the logistics.

DocXplorers series interview about Remembering the Troubles on Instagram

I was delighted to be interviewed by John Coster (Documentary Media Centre) as part of the DocXplorers series last week. We discussed my ongoing research project looking at historical photographs of the Northern Irish Troubles on Instagram.

In conversation with John Coster, Documentary Media Centre, February 2022

We discussed how the type of photographs being shared on Instagram, how people respond to these in the comments section, and the broader implications of social media for remembering conflict (we even touched on how the Holocaust has been commemorated in Germany too). Many thanks to John for the opportunity and I look forward to sharing the final results of the project in the next few months.

Cited in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution on the role of media in time of crisis

Photo by Jem Stone/ CC BY

In May 2021, I provided expert testimony to a hearing organised by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. The session organised by Rapporteur Annicka Engblom (EPP/CD) focused on the role of the media in times of crises. The agenda can be found here.

In my contribution to the hearing, I drew on my research on social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland and the #PorteOuverte hashtag during the 2015 November Paris Terror Attacks, as well as the findings from my two EC funded projects CascEff and IMPROVER. My written evidence included a call for greater funding for hyperlocal media and for social media companies to face harsher penalties for failing to remove misinformation and disinformation during crises.

PACE adopted a resolution based on this session this week, which referenced my testimony and several of my publications from CascEff and IMPROVER. It also included my recommendations to protect public service media and compel online platforms to take stronger action on misinformation and disinformation.

Many thanks to Eugen Cibotaru for the invitation to contribute to this resolution. I look forward to giving expert testimony to a PACE hearing on ‘the control of online communication’ next month.

Digital Activism article now available open access until April 2022

Pleased to report that our article in Information, Communication & Society will be available open access until 31 March 2022. Entitled ‘Easy data, same old platforms? A systematic review of digital activism methodologies’, this paper draws on the results of a review of 315 articles published between 1994 and 2018.

The abstract can be read below:

Burgess and Bruns (2015) have linked the computational turn in social media research to an increase in the number of studies focussing exclusively on ‘easy data’, such as the ‘low hanging fruit’ provided by Twitter hashtags. This paper explores whether there is a preponderance of such easy data in digital activism research through a systematic review of relevant journal articles published between 2011 and 2018 (N = 315). Specifically, it examines whether computational digital methods have become increasingly prominent in digital activism research during this period. A key focus of the paper is the extent to which digital activism research focused on easily accessible Twitter data, and whether these were obtained via standard API services. Results indicate that (1) traditional research methodologies were more commonly deployed in these articles than digital methods, but (2) Twitter was the most researched platform in the corpus, and (3) single-platform hashtag studies were an archetype of digital activism research alongside single-platform Facebook studies and holistic approaches (hybrid, multi-method & multi-sited, e.g., ethnography). The paper concludes by advocating for greater diversity in terms of the methodological approaches adopted in digital activism research.

Many thanks to the editors, reviewers, and the iCS team for their help in getting this out. And of course to Suay and Jenny, for their collaboration on this. Hopefully the first of many!

The article can be accessed here

Interview to mark one year since publication of Digital Contention

This week marks one year since the publication of my second book Digital Contention in a Divided Society (Manchester University Press). I sat down (virtually) with John Coster, Director of the Documentary Media Centre, to reflect on this. Our conversation touched on a wide variety of topics including the April 2011 ‘Brexit riots‘, the abuse directed at DUP MLA Diane Dodds on Twitter, and how social media bring us together (and tear us apart).

Big thanks to John for the chat. We hope to do this on a regular basis moving forward.

Interviewed by John Coster to mark one year since Digital Contention published

You can still view the video of the book launch below: