Essay on role of online disinformation in Capitol Building invasion

The US Capitol Building was overrun with pro-Trump insurrectionists on 6 January 2020

I have an essay in Human:Putting the Social into Science on the role of online disinformation and US President Donald Trump in the violent scenes at the US Capitol Building last week. I argue that the pro-Trump mob are a manifestation of an information crisis fed by Trump, which has created an alternative reality in which the unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud are believed to be true. I argue that political leaders should be wary of legitimising ‘fake news’ given that they may undermine trust in the institutions they purport to represent. Thanks to Laura Lightfinch and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here

Interviewed about Trump and social media conspiracy theories

Image of protesters at Capitol Building, Washington D.C, 6 January 2021

Yesterday I was interviewed by Stephen Jones (Press Association) about Donald Trump’s role in amplifying disinformation about the 2020 US Presidential Election. We discussed a variety of issues, including the rise of the right-wing information ecosystem in the US, how social media companies like Facebook have responded to disinformation campaigns, and Trump’s use of online platforms to question the credibility of the 2020 US Election result.

Thanks to Stephen for the interview, which can be read in the following publications:

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites’ riots at Capitol building, Belfast Telegraph, 7 January 2021. 

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites’ riots at Capitol building, Express and Star, 7 January 2021. 

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites riots at Capitol building, Oxford Mail, 7 January 2021.

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites riots at Capitol building, Salford City News, 7 January 2021.

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites riots at Capitol building, The London Economic, 7 January 2021.

UK politicians warned after Trump ‘incites riots at Capitol building, Winsford Guardian, 7 January 2021.

Northern Slant interview about new book

Interview with Connor Daly, Northern Slant, 19 December 2020

I was interviewed by Connor Daly from Northern Slant last week. We spoke about my new book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, due out on 19 January 2021. Among the topics discussed were the flag protests as a watershed moment for digital citizenship in Northern Ireland, the prospects of social media improving community relations, and the problems associated with using social media as a barometer of public opinion.

Many thanks to Connor and Jenny for the opportunity and their help in bringing this to fruition. Hopefully there will be a podcast in the New Year during which we will discuss these issues further.

Digital Contention can be preordered online now The Northern Slant interview can be read be read here

Article on COVID-19 infodemic in France Forum

I have had an article published in the most recent edition of France Forum. I argue that we all have a responsibility to verify information about COVID-19 before we share it online. I also suggest we should be wary of the misinformation about the pandemic shared by politicians, which has the potential to hamper efforts to flatten the curve.

Many thanks to Marc Foucault and Elisabeth Cazeaux for the invitation to write this piece. An English language version can be read below.

BBC Radio Foyle interview on US legal action against Facebook

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Yesterday I was interviewed by David Hunter on BBC Radio Foyle’s The News at One on the US government antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. We discussed the precedent for this effort to break up Facebook’s control of other social media platforms and services, and the implications for citizens’ rights if this action is successful.

Thanks to David, Dean McLaughlin and BBC Radio Foyle for the invitation. The interview can be heard here

Essay published by Hub for Study of Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding

Hub for Study of Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding

I recently became an associate member of the Hub for the Study of Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding, a new interdisciplinary group of researchers who aim to understand the communicative conditions for civil peace. Hosted by the Centre for Freedom of the Media (University of Sheffield), in collaboration with the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (University of Manchester), the Hub will examine how both representational and non-representational forms of communication can help construct peace.

I have written a short essay discussing some of my findings from my forthcoming book Digital contention in a divided society. In this piece, I problematise social media peacebuilding initiatives such as Peace on Facebook, and argue that we should be wary of such ‘technological solutionism’. I explore how social media may be enabling the ‘post-Agreement’ generation in Northern Ireland to mobilise in policy areas that transcend the tribal politics of its violent past.

Thanks to Stef Pukallus and Catherine Arthur for their support and help with this. The post can be read here and my book can be preordered here

Two new articles in Journal of Social Media for Learning

Journal of Social Media for Learning launched in December 2020

I have two articles in the inaugural volume of the Journal of Social Media for Learning, which has been published this month.

Curation, connections and creativity: reflections on using Twitter to teach digital activism builds on my presentation at last year’s Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference. In this paper I draw on my experience of using Twitter over the past decade, reflecting on the how student watching of hashtags may help support their learning. The paper can be accessed here and the slides from my presentation are below.

Presentation from 2019 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference

The second article is a collaboration with my fantastic PhD researcher Paul Fenn. Problematising the use of Snapchat in Higher Education Teaching and Learning reviews the literature on how IM apps have been used to support university teaching to date. We reflect on issues relating to privacy, surveillance and the responsibility of educators to make students aware of how platforms monetise user data. This paper can be accessed here

Many thanks to Dawne Irving-Bell and the editorial team for their help in the publication process and for bringing together a fantastic first volume of the journal.

Chapter on sousveillance in Routledge Encyclopedia of citizen media

I have a chapter on sousveillance in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media, which was published a few weeks ago. Many thanks to Mona, Bolette, Henry and Luis for all their hard work bringing this together.

The abstract for my chapter is below:

Sousveillance

Paul Reilly, University of Sheffield, UK

The use of social media by citizens to ‘bear witness’ to traumatic events is illustrative of the new forms of digital citizenship that have emerged in the past decade (Allan et al. 2013, Isin and Huppert 2015). This entry will focus specifically on one such digital act, namely how social media platforms can be used to create and share acts of sousveillance, a form of ‘inverse surveillance’ that empowers citizens through their use of technology to ‘access and collect data about their surveillance’ (Mann et al. 2003: 333). The two primary forms of sousveillance, hierarchical and personal, will be critically evaluated with reference to a number of prominent examples. These will include the #BlackLivesMatter campaign to focus attention upon violent police attacks upon African-Americans since 2014 (Freelon et al. 2016), as well as the use of YouTube by eyewitnesses to highlight alleged police brutality during the so-called ‘Battle of Stokes Croft’ that occurred in Bristol, England, in April 2011. In particular, the entry will consider how audience responses to acts of police brutality shared on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are influenced by news media coverage of these incidents. Previous research has indicated that the sharing of sousveillance footage online may raise as many questions about the behaviour of the alleged victims as it does of the police (Reilly 2015). It concludes by considering whether sousveillant practices facilitated via social media constitute a shift in informational power from nation-states to marginalized groups.

References

Allan, S. (2013) Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Freelon, D., C. D. McIlwain. and M. D. Clark (2016) Beyond the Hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, Washington D.C.: Center for Media and Social Impact, American University.

Isin, E. and E. Ruppert (2015) Being Digital Citizens, London: Rowman and Littlefield International.

Mann, S., J. Nolan and B. Wellman (2003) ‘Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments’, Surveillance & Society 1(3): 331-355.

Reilly, P. (2015) ‘Every Little helps? YouTube, Sousveillance and the ‘Anti-Tesco’ Riot in Bristol’, New Media and Society 17(5): 755-771.

Doc Media Centre sousveillance newsroom

Sousveillance newsroom, Doc Media Centre, 18 September 2020

On 18 September 2020, the Doc Media Centre hosted a sousveillance newsroom.

Dr. Aliaksandr Herasimenka (Oxford Internet Institute) spoke about his ongoing research on how digital media is used by activists in Belarus. He has provided expert commentary on how Telegram and other digital media platforms have been used in the recent protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Aliaksandr talking to John and I about his research on Belarus

In a wide-ranging discussion, we discussed the role of women in the protests and how activists have used digital media to record and share experiences of heavy-handed policing.For more on Aliaksandr’s work, please check out his list of recent media appearances here and follow him on Twitter

Jenny Hayes (University of Sheffield) spoke about her PhD research on how NGOs have used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to distribute evidence of Israeli brutality against Palestinians in the Middle East.

Jenny talking to John and I about her research on Palestinian sousveillance

Jenny has written a blogpost about her project and you can follow her on Twitter

Thanks to Aliaksandr and Jenny for speaking to us. We have created a resource list and dedicated page where you can find out more about sousveillance here

Essay on importance of cross-platform social movement research

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