About Paul Reilly

Digital politics scholar studying N.Irish online communities, online research ethics, social media and sousveillance. Views are my own.

Interviewed for Parallel Lives Network 16 Days of Activism

Last week I was interviewed by John Coster (Doc Media Centre) for the Parallel Lives Network’s 16 Days of Activism.

To mark 10 years since the union flag protests in Northern Ireland, we discussed themes from my 2021 book Digital Contention in a Divided Society. I suggested that many of the themes of othering and social media pile-ons remained a key feature of how contentious political issues are framed by online citizens.

We also discussed a wide range of other topics including recent protests in China and Iran, as well as the implications of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter for how people find out about events like flag protests.

Many thanks to John for the invitation and the engaging chat (as always!). The interview can be viewed below:

Fifth review of Digital Contention published in Information, Communication & Society

The fifth review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society has been published this week in Information, Communication & Society.

Zein Al-Maha Oweis provides a very comprehensive overview of the book’s key themes, from the exploration of how ICTs have transformed contentious politics to the use of affective hashtags to discursively frame hybrid media events. Some quotes from the review are below:

“Reilly’s book focuses on answering the question of how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by citizens to frame contentious issues in post-conflict Northern Ireland and what this tells us about the potential of information and communication technologies to promote positive intergroup contact in a deeply divided society

”The book answers the question of how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by citizens to frame contentious issues in post-conflict Northern Ireland as well as establishing connections between Media and Cultural Policy. This line of research which focuses on social media impact on post-conflict societies is an ever-changing field of research and one that is relevant in this day and age opening new research pathways on the subject in the future”

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

New Publication: Introduction to Special Issue in The Communication Review with Virpi Salojärvi

Virpi Salojärvi and I have a new article out in The Communication Review this week.

(De)constructing societal threats during times of deep mediatization provides an introduction to a Special Issue based on research presented in the Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication working group at the conference of International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) in 2021.

We provide an overview of the literature on mediatization of conflict and crises, with a specific focus on how online platforms present both challenges and opportunities to the agenda-setting powers of mainstream media and political institutions.

The introduction can be read here

The list of papers published in our Special Issue are as follows:

Minos-Athanasios Karyotakis (2022) Framing the Macedonian name dispute in Greece: nationalistic journalism and the existential threat, The Communication Review, DOI: 10.1080/10714421.2022.2129125

Zhe Xu & Mengrong Zhang (2022) The “ultimate empathy machine” as technocratic solutionism? Audience reception of the distant refugee crisis through virtual reality, The Communication Review, DOI: 10.1080/10714421.2022.2129118

Olivia Inwood & Michele Zappavigna (2022) A Systemic Functional Linguistics Approach to Analyzing White Supremacist and Conspiratorial Discourse on YouTube, The Communication Review, DOI: 10.1080/10714421.2022.2129122

Gregory Asmolov (2022) Internet regulation and crisis-related resilience: from Covid-19 to existential risks, The Communication Review, DOI: 10.1080/10714421.2022.2129124

We would like to thank all the authors, reviewers and the editorial team at TCR for their help bringing this Special Issue together.

Participant in BBC Radio Ulster Talkback debate on the future of Twitter

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Yesterday I participated in a segment on BBC Radio Ulster Talkback about the future of Twitter under Elon Musk. Presented by William Crawley, I joined Brenda Gough and Andrew Pierce to discuss the future of microblogging site in the wake of users leaving for sites like Mastodon. We also how the moderation rules on non-profit sites compare to Twitter.

You can listen to the segment here (it begins at 38:29 and finishes at 56:51).

Many thanks to William, Claire and the Talkback team for the invitation to participate.

Interviewed for Bored Panda article on people sharing instant reactions on social media

Bored Panda interview about how people share content on social media

I was interviewed by Ieva Gailiūtė for Lithuanian publication Bored Panda this week. We discussed why people share things on social media without checking their accuracy, and the negative impacts of people being shamed for historic posts. 

Some quotes from the interview are below:

When asked why social media users often share their thoughts without thinking twice, Dr. Reilly explained the design of online platforms encourages instant responses and reactions. “The stories, images and posts that feature prominently in our social media timelines are often the most likely to elicit emotional responses from us.”

“The ‘publish then filter’ model of these sites also means our opinions are published immediately with no cooling off period for us to consider whether we want to post them or not,” he added.

When asked whether our online contributions always become permanent, Dr. Reilly told us, “Yes and No. It’s true that social media posts are no longer your property when you share them publicly, or even privately given that they can be shared by others. Even on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, people can take screenshots of content deleted by others and share them later.”

“However, there needs to be a motivation for someone to do this,” he continued. “This is why we see so many politicians being shamed for historic (and often deleted) social media posts. The consequences can be severe, ranging from embarrassment, reputational harm, people losing jobs and even worse.” Especially because sometimes, digital content can be made permanent in ways we never imagined. The posts can be changed, modified, or altered into something completely different from what they originally intended to be.

“People should ideally verify the information before they share it, but many don’t,” he said. “However, it should also be noted that people are better at detecting ‘fake news’ and disinformation than they are often given credit for.”

So even when we can essentially say whatever we want online — whether it’s objectively true or not — and not really have very serious consequences for it, we should all strive to make social media a better place. “Read the story before you share it. Satisfy yourself that it is based on an authoritative source. If it makes you feel an extreme emotion then be wary — this is often a sign that it is disinformation designed to polarize audiences,” Dr. Reilly concluded.

Many thanks to Ieva for the invitation. The article can be read here

Interview for Irish Times Podcast on the role of social media during Twelfth

In the News, Irish Times podcast

I was interviewed yesterday by Sorcha Pollak of the Irish Times for the In the News podcast. We discussed the role of social media during the Twelfth of July parades in Northern Ireland. In a wide-ranging conversation, we explored how sectarian discourses circulate via online platforms during the Twelfth. While humorous content, such as the Steeple Defenders band wearing alien outfits, might have raised a smile among social media watchers, images of effigies being burnt on bonfires drew much criticism. There was also much online discussion about a video showing a man throwing a bin at a group of marchers, and the subsequent altercation which saw several bandsmen smash the windows of his house.

Drawing on the findings from my book on social media, parades and protest in Northern Ireland, I suggested that these platforms could also be used to moderate tensions and expose people to the views of people they ordinarily wouldn’t mix with offline. However, the emotive content amplified by these sites tends to reinforce views on contentious issues such as parading. People don’t tend to change their minds as a result of watching these events unfold in real-time on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, paperback due out in 2023.

Many thanks to Aideen, Sorcha and the team for the invitation to discuss my research. The podcast can be accessed here (my contribution begins at approximately 12:00).

Bored Panda interview on hate watching and social media

Bored Panda magazine, Lithuania

I was interviewed by Ieva Gailiūtė for Lithuanian publication Bored Panda this week. We discussed why people like to engage with things they hate on social media.

Some quotes from the interview are below:

“A minority of people do appear to take pleasure from the act of commenting on things they hate,” Dr. Reilly added. “I think this speaks to the affective dimensions of these platforms.”

“Even those users who express a desire for greater civility on social media take the opportunity to express negative opinions. However, I don’t think hate-watching is as widespread as it is often claimed in the media.”

“We turn to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube not only for entertainment but also for release. There’s often nothing more satisfying than venting anger, letting off steam and interacting with those with whom we disagree.”

Many thanks to Ieva for the invitation. The article can be read here

Article on Ending the Harm campaign published in European Journal of Communication

Ending the Harm campaign advert

I have a new journal article out this month in the European Journal of Communication. Entitled ‘Can social media help end the harm? Public information campaigns, online platforms, and paramilitary-style attacks in a deeply divided society’, the paper explores how social media was used to promote the Ending the Harm campaign in Northern Ireland. This built on research conducted with Dr. Faith Gordon (ANU) in 2019.

The abstract can be read below:

Online platforms can help public information campaigns reach target audiences who are unlikely to engage with content distributed via traditional media. This paper adds to this emergent literature, as the first study of the Ending the Harm campaign, which is designed to change public discourse about paramilitary-style attacks in Northern Ireland. Campaign effects were explored through interviews (N = 7) conducted with key stakeholders, as well as the results of a quantitative survey of residents (N = 805) in areas most affected by these attacks. Results indicate that exposure to the ETH advertisements correlated with a belief that PSAs were unjustified. Platforms like Snapchat helped the campaign reach younger demographics (16–34 years old). Nevertheless, it was unclear whether self-reported changes in attitude toward PSAs would lead to sustained behavioral changes.

The paper is published Open Access and can be read and downloaded (for free) here

Many thanks to EJC, the anonymous reviewers, the interviewees, Damian Boylan (NI Executive Programme for Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality & Organised Crime), and Faith for their input. I will hopefully have an update on this work later in the summer.

Invited Participant at World Summit on the Information Society Academia Roundtable

WSIS 2022 Final Week

This morning I am an invited participant at the WSIS and Academia roundtable organised by the World Summit on the Information Society.

The semi-structured open roundtable will include stakeholders from academia and WSIS to discuss opportunities for collaboration and mutual support on ICTs and the sciences (between academic stakeholders, ITU, and the WSIS forum). This will, for example, include research partnerships, innovation-sharing, critical debate, networks and collaboration, and student involvement. Following the session, key points will feed into the creation of a pathway for academic involvement.

Many thanks to the moderator Suay Ozkula for the invitation and for organising this event.

More details on the roundtable and the participants can be found here

Paper presented at 72nd Annual International Communication Association conference

72nd International Communication Association conference, 26-30 May 2022

Suay Özkula (Trento), Jenny Hayes (Sheffield) and I are presenting a paper at the ICA Conference in Paris today (30 May). This paper builds on our systematic review of digital activism research, which was recently published in Information, Communication & Society.

Entitled Easy Data, same old platforms?, the slides can be read below: