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:

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