I have written a piece for VIEWdigital on the issue of regulating online hate speech. I argue that the publish then filter model of platforms like Facebook and Twitter is partially responsible for the growth in hate speech online. I discuss how national governments and the EU have used fines in an effort to compel these platforms to remove such harmful content. However, if we want to take online harms more seriously we need to treat online platforms like publishers.
Many thanks to Brian Pelan and Una Murphy for the opportunity to write about this issue. The piece can be read here.
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I have an op-ed in VIEWdigital this week, which focuses on how to future-proof journalism after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drawing on my testimony to a hearing organised by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, my recommendations on how to improve media coverage of crises include:
1) Impose harsher penalties on social media companies for failing to remove misinformation and disinformation from their sites.
These could range from punitive fines to more radical measures such as recognising social media companies as media publishers.
2) Prioritise source criticism over objectivity in journalism.
False balance approaches that amplify inaccurate, unverified claims should be avoided. This approach should be implemented alongside existing factchecking initiatives (e.g. Full Fact) to counteract misinformation and disinformation during crises.
3) Protect public service media from government interference.
It is imperative that the editorial independence of these organisations is maintained in the future.
4) Provide financial support to the hyperlocal sector
Hyperlocal news sites should be given financial support from governments in order to reduce their reliance on digital advertising. For instance, the National Union of Journalists News Recovery Plan proposes that tax credits and interest free loans be provided to these outlets in order to ensure their sustainability.
5) Promote solutions journalism as a counterpoint to ‘snackable’ news coverage.
While there remains a need for more empirical evidence showing its impact on behaviour, solutions journalism is a corollary for encouraging citizens to think of collective rather than individual interests during these incidents.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it would be a start. As I argued previously, we should all do what we can to support local journalists, the ‘first responders’ during crises like the pandemic.
Thanks to Brian and Una for the opportunity. The piece can be read in full here
I have an essay in Human:Putting the Social into Science on the role of social media in the recent riots in Northern Ireland. It begins by exploring the factors that have underpinned the protests and related violence seen in Northern Ireland over the past two weeks, including the border created down the Irish Sea by the Northern Ireland Protocol and loyalist accusations about ‘two-tier policing’ in the wake of the PPS decision not to not to recommend any prosecutions for republicans who broke COVID rules during the funeral of senior PIRA member Bobby Storey in June 2020. Like the flag protests eight years ago, these street protests have also articulated increasing loyalist dissatisfaction with the Stormont Assembly and the peace process in general.
Drawing on my recently published book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, I argue that there are comparisons to be made in terms of how online platforms were used during the flag protests. Messages calling for loyalists to “shut down Northern Ireland” have reverberated around Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Videos recorded on smartphones showing the effects of the violence in interface areas have again become a focal point for the anger of online commentators. Mis-and disinformation is once again spreading via these platforms, as demonstrated by messages emanating from false flag accounts urging loyalist youths to “earn their strips” [sic] by engaging in violence. While social media may not be ‘fuelling’ these protests, the speed with which such information circulates presents a formidable challenge to those seeking to keep these demonstrations peaceful. Ultimately, political leadership is required if Northern Ireland is to avoid a contentious marching season this summer.
Thanks to Laura Lightfinch and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here
I have an essay in Human:Putting the Social into Science on the need for cross and multi-platform research to understand contemporary social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Drawing on my forthcoming book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, I argue that we need to move away from studies involving the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of Twitter hashtags to explore how activist content is distributed across online platforms. Thanks to Laura Lightfinch and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here
I have written a short blog for Supervising PGRs on the challenges of supervising PhD researchers during the pandemic. The key takeaway is the need for supervisors to be kind, supportive and responsive to PGRs during a time in which we are all experiencing stress and anxiety. Many thanks to Kay Guccione for the opportunity. Please do check out her other work on mentoring, which i have found incredibly helpful in the past.
Delighted to publish a blogpost with addressing the recent police attacks on photojournalists during the Black Lives Matter protests in the US. Based on a study of Greek photojournalists conducted with Anastasia Veneti and Darren Lilleker (Bournemouth University), we assess the implications of these attacks for press freedom in the US. The post can be read here
I have written a post for Human: Putting the Social into Science on the social media sousveillance footage recorded during the Black Lives Matter protests across the world. I argue that although this footage may not guarantee the conviction of the officers responsible caught on camera attacking protesters, it clearly provides a focal point for the broad coalition of protesters mobilised in anger at the police killing of George Floyd. Thanks to Laura Lightfinch, Sophie Armour and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here
I have written a post for Democratic Audit on the spread of coronavirus ‘fake news’ over the past few months. I discuss how false stories about COVID-19 ‘cures’ can have deadly consequences, as seen in Iran where hundreds of people died after drinking methanol in the mistaken belief it would protect them from the virus. While conspiracy theories about the virus being a ‘biological weapon’ have emerged online, their impact should not be exaggerated. Instead, we should focus on the misinformation spread by political leaders such as Donald Trump, which is more likely to have an impact on the behaviour of citizens.
Thanks to Alice Park and the fantastic DA team for their help in publishing this. The post can be found here
Dr Faith Gordon (Monash University) and I have published an essay on the role of social media in combatting paramilitary-style assaults in Northern Ireland. In the piece, we draw on the work of the Stop Attacks Forum and Ending the Harm to explore how social media can raise awareness of these incidents. This is part of an ongoing project that Faith and I are working on – more details to come soon!