Monday, 30 September 2013

Newton Emerson - PSNI turn blind eye offline while exercising firm hand online

In contrast with the averted legal gaze cast over loyalist murals and gable walls, Newton Emerson makes the point that the PSNI has not been as pliant when it comes to threatening words and images posted on social media walls. He said in the September 26 2013 edition of the Irish News:
"It is hard to avoid a comparison with the rise in social media prosecutions, and not just because Facebook messages are said to be posted to a 'wall'. Between 2009 and 2012, Facebook and Twitter were mentioned by the PSNI in almost 5,000 incident investigations. Over the same period, annual convictions tripled to 110 a year."
Newton then asked:
"How can the PSNI, the Public Prosecutiom Service and the courts chose to police this virtually infinite cyberspace for threatening words and images while ignoring a few dozen physical spaces right under their nose?"
He answered his own question:
"We are all wearily familiar with the answers. Paramilitary mural painters, unlike Internet trolls, would respond to lawful sanction with violence."
But perhaps a very real question needs answered: Are law enforcement agencies simply cherry picking those they chose to pursue within the infinite cyberspace, while allowing the more sinister and unruly elements to carry on unfettered?

Gillian Tett - Polarisation in cyberspace tends to herald street fights

Gillian Tett made some critical observations in the FT on the role of social media. Writing here, she said:
"One small sign can be seen in the proliferation of Facebook pages in Egypt which have taken radically opposing and increasingly extremist sides. But another illustration appears in some fascinating new research by Ingmar Weber and Venkata Garimella, two data scientists at the Qatari Computing Research Institute, working in conjunction with Alaa Batayneh, a data analyst at Al Jazeera.

Lucy Kellaway - Teaching our kids to govern their online tongue

Lucy Kellaway puts it perfect in her column for the Irish Times: We need to educate our children on how to govern their online tongue, just as we do with them offline. We often tell our kids to "think before they speak"; And so, as George Monbiot has previously suggested, we need to "think before we tweet" and teach this social norm to our kids. As Lucy said:
"Most people do not relish being nasty in person: we have all been brought up to be polite to strangers, especially if we are breaking bread with them.

By contrast, on the internet our upbringing is non-existent. No one seems to think there is anything wrong with being gratuitously horrible – so long as we cannot be seen."
And so, as Lucy has suggested, we need to make our children's internet upbringing existent.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Anthony McIntyre - Irish News Working to Censor

You can read all about it here, here and here.

Simon Hamilton asks Judena Goldring of the Law Commission to Review Libel Law

The newly installed Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said he wants to bring a fresh pair of eyes to this issue of libel reform. Simon Hamilton has now asked Judena Goldring, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Law Commission, to look at the situation. He has asked the official body for reviewing legislation, to do the following:
"Assess the act, which is expected to be commenced later this year, and to advise me on whether any corresponding provisions should be introduced here".
Read the Belfast Telegraph report from September 16 2013 here. The editor of that paper, Mike Gilson appears impressed. He said:
"This is an important subject, and the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and the Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay deserve credit for keeping up the pressure on this issue."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

31 Writers and Poets Call for Stormont action on libel reform

Thirty-one leading writers, poets and playwrights – including novelists Colm Toibin, Roddy Doyle, Sebastian Barry,  Graham Linehan, Brian Keenan, academic and political analyst Lord Bew, poet Michael Longley and Lucy Caldwell have signed a letter to the First and Deputy First Minister Mr Robinson and Minister Martin McGuinness urging action to ensure that Northern Ireland does not become a forum for libel bullies.

They said that without reform to the libel system that "the people of Northern Ireland will enjoy fewer free speech protections than fellow citizens in England and Wales".

Their letter concluded:
"We call upon the Executive to redress this imbalance, and breathe life into the right that underpins all other rights: our right to freedom of speech."
The newly instllaed Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has commissioned an official report on the new Westminster legislation which will examine whether or not the new law should be extended here A public consultation on Mike Nesbitt's Bill was launched on Thursday 19 September.

Read more in full here.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Head of Stormont Communications - "FOI is flawed"

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Social Media - "A weapon of mass reputation destruction"

Freedom of Speech is one of Four Freedoms paintings by Norman Rockwell that were inspired by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the State of the Union Address, known as Four Freedoms, he delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941.
Laura Hudson wrote on Wired Magazine here:
"At its best, social media has given a voice to the disenfranchised, allowing them to bypass the gatekeepers of power and publicize injustices that might otherwise remain invisible. At its worst, it’s a weapon of mass reputation destruction, capable of amplifying slander, bullying, and casual idiocy on a scale never before possible." 
In full and more anecdotes here.