Stopping Social Media-Is This Evidence Of Its Impact?

March 20, 2014

By MARCUS BREEN, Professor of Communication and Media, editor of the International Journal of Technology Knowledge and Society, and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

Speaking at Dublin City University in February 2014, my presentation was titled: “Uprising: What happens next?”I addressed the political chaos in Egypt where reports of the influence of Social Media and the impact of the Internet have been strong. In my view Social Media has been generating hyper-fragmentation among interest groups in society, giving rise to “ideological grooming” which continues apace.Researchers are notoriously brave or reckless in theorizing technological determinism in the quest for democracy. Count me in that lot.Now there is evidence of real impacts as opposed to marketing claims from techo-boosters parading as researchers – I know the terrain is complex, but the point is worth making less researchers become corporate shills. (definition of shill: a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty).Turkey Prime Minister quote:”We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook,” Erdoğan said in an interview late on Thursday with the Turkish broadcaster ATV. “We will take the necessary steps in the strongest way.”

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Media Law Basics For Election Bloggers

August 8, 2013

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and Social Media and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

Countless laws might apply to the serious blogger and citizen journalist because Web 2.0 communications transcend borders into places where expression is far from free.  

Even in Australia there are nine jurisdictions with a complex array of laws affecting writers and online publishers, including defamation, contempt, confidentiality, discrimination, privacy, intellectual property and national security.

If you plan on taking the ‘publish and be damned’ approach coined by the Duke of Wellington in 1824, then you might also take the advice of Tex Perkins from The Cruel Sea in 1995: “Better get a lawyer, son. Better get a real good one.”

(A quick disclaimer: My words here do not constitute legal advice. I’m not a lawyer.)

The problem is that most bloggers can’t afford legal advice and certainly don’t have the luxury of in-house counsel afforded to journalists still working for legacy media.

So if you’re going to pack a punch in your writing you at least need a basic grasp of the main areas of the law, including the risks involved and the defences available to you.

Defamation remains the most common concern of serious writers and commentators because blog posts so often risk damage to someone’s reputation – but it does have some useful defences.

Political commentary has been much livelier over the past two decades since the High Court handed down a series of decisions conveying upon all citizens a freedom to communicate on matters of politics and government. Read the rest of this entry »

Courts And Social Media Project In The Judicial Officers’ Bulletin

July 10, 2013

An article on our courts and social media research project has appeared in the Judicial Officers’ Bulletin published by the Judicial Commission of NSW. Detailing the research methodology which employed nominal group technique, the various findings that emerged from the research, and the issue of aborted trials due to juror misuse of social media, the article reflects on the ubiquity of social media and its increasing impact on court processes and the continuing administration of justice.

An extract of the article is provided below with a link to the article in full also included.


“Social media” is a collective term for a group of internet-based applications that allow users to create, organise and distribute messages, pictures and audio-visual content. Generally speaking, social media is characterised by its accessibility, participatory culture and interactivity. Social media can be “two way” (allowing conversations characterised by varying degrees of publicity, depending on the privacy settings selected by the contributor) or “one way” (allowing publication of information, but not permitting comment).

Social media has created intense challenges for the law and judicial administration. Traditionally, the courts have employed the law of sub judice contempt to prevent prejudicial publicity, to protect the right to a fair trial, and to ensure the due administration of justice. Courts also have the option of making non-publication orders about cases. However, social media applications have dramatically increased the number of people who can publish material about court cases. Many of these “citizen journalists” are unaware of the legal rules that restrict what they can publish.

To view the full article, click this link:

Judicial Officers’ Bulletin; The Courts and Social Media

© Institute for Law, Government and Policy 2013

When Jurors Go ‘Rogue’ On The Internet And Social Media …

June 7, 2013

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and Social Media and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

The term ‘rogue juror’ has been used widely and pejoratively to describe a range of juror actions running counter to judicial directions to restrict their inquiries and communications about a case to the court room and the jury room.

I was tasked with taking a close look at the phenomenon for our collaborative research project conducted recently to the Standing Council on Law and Justice via the Victorian Attorney-General and drafted a section around the following cases. Our full report – including elaboration on this material – can be viewed here. [Johnston, J., Keyzer, P., Holland, G., Pearson, M., Rodrick, S., and Wallace, A. (2013). Juries and Social Media. A Report Prepared for the Victorian Department of Justice. Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy, Bond University.]

While all such incidents involve jurors venturing beyond the courtroom in their communications during a trial, not all their actions are prejudicial to a trial and can be viewed on a continuum. At one extreme are serious transgressions such as a juror’s ‘friending’ of the accused on Facebook (as in was A-G v Fraill [2011] EWCA Crim 1570). At the other extreme are actions that still risk being counter-productive, but are far from ‘roguish’ behaviour and may well stem from a desire on the part of jurors to better perform their role. For example, jurors who search the Internet for definitions of terms they have been asked to consider are likely indulging in their normal method of research and inquiry and might consider such actions as fastidious rather than inappropriate. Between these poles on the continuum are a range of behaviours classified and exemplified here through recent cases in Australian and other jurisdictions.

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Juries and Social Media – Report Out Now!

April 17, 2013

The Institute’s team members were recently engaged by the Victorian Department of Justice on behalf of the Standing Council on Law and Justice to:

1. Conduct a literature review of existing research and studies that discuss the use of social media by empanelled jurors and in particular the purpose and effect of such use and describe this research and these studies.

2. Review any policy implemented in interstate or overseas (Commonwealth) jurisdictions that aims to address potential prejudice caused by a juror’s access to and use of social media, and provide details regarding whether any policy has been successful.

The report is out now and has already received attention in the Sydney Morning Herald today: Trial via social media a problem for courts

To view the report, click here:

Juries and Social Media Report

The Media Regulation Debate In A Democracy Lacking A Free Expression Guarantee

October 30, 2012

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and member of Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

The latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review is out – a special issue edited by Chris Nash, David Robie and Johan Lidberg on ‘Rebuilding Public Trust’.

My contribution carries the same title as this blog. Here are the abstract and conclusion, but if you’re really interested you’ll need to get PJR for the body of the article and the references – and, of course, another 13 articles by some of the region’s top journalists and researchers.


Two major inquiries into the Australian news media in 2011 and 2012 prompted a necessary debate over the extent to which rapidly converging and globalised news businesses and platforms require statutory regulation at a national level.  Three regulatory models emerged – a News Media Council backed by recourse to the contempt powers of courts; a super self-regulatory body with legislative incentives to join; and the status quo with a strengthened Australian Press Council policing both print and online media. This article reviews the proposals and explores further the suggestion that consumer laws could be better utilised in any reform. It concludes with an assessment of the impact of the inquiries and their recommendations upon free expression in a Western democracy lacking constitutional protection of the media.

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