Internet ‘news’ sourcing out of control…

There have been several prominent incidents of internet activity resulting in prosecution in the last few months. The Facebook threat cases of Gregory Campbell and Neil Lennon are particularly relevant to ‘our wee country’, but there are several others, including Facebook/ Twitter activity during the recent English riots. The incidents in question however seem to have opened a new door for what is seen as genuine news sourcing by several journalists. In the last few days alone there are two such examples.

A single Facebook comment on a UUP affiliated page resulted in the Orange Order, UUP and DUP being asked for statements on what was an unobjectionable incident almost lacking in news (I say almost, because if anything it was a very positive story).

But today we have it taken a step further in the Belfast Telegraph and now the BBC. The Tele’s Connla Young managed to isolate three comments on an internet forum and twisted them into a headline claiming (totally incorrectly even from the article content) that a Catholic Rangers player has been threatened!

Where does this sort of sourcing of news end? Where will this method of searching for abuse or threat or offence leave us in terms of internet usage? The truth is any single one of us could trawl the net and use single comments in this same way from forums, blogs and social media to make allegations against ANY organisation or prominent individual. For example, on this very site occasionally commentators become incredibly personal about and abusive towards individual bloggers

How long before the first ‘police investigation’ begins on a blog comment poster?…

  • andnowwhat

    So, was it grand what Campbell did in bringing the case to the police?

  • But today we have it taken a step further in the Belfast Telegraph and now the BBC. The Tele’s Connla Young managed to isolate three comments on an internet forum and twisted them into a headline claiming (totally incorrectly even from the article content) that a Catholic Rangers player has been threatened!

    I’m most certainly no fan of the Tele’s *Research* Department which now appears to consist of two junior wannabe journos scouring Twitter and Facebook for the slightest whiff of a story but the fact that the Glasgow cops are at least investigating the matter does seem to indicate that they are taking it seriously:

    A spokeswoman from Strathclyde Police said: “We are aware of the comments and the matter is being looked into with the appropriate action being taken by officers.

    Even if there is no prosecutions, putting the shits up the little shits who think it’s funny to post this kind of stuff about a teenager makes the publicity worthwhile.

  • Mac

    In local terms Gregory released the genie. Let us see now just how even handed the genie is.

  • andnowwhat

    @Mac

    My thoughts exactly.

    There’s also the threats re. Rasharkin as highlighted by Daithi Mc Kay.

  • Mac

    Yeah, Daithi was conspicuous by his absence in the context Quincy’s post.

  • ayeYerMa

    The irony in this is that the Belfast Telegraph’s own comment forum has of recent degraded to be one of the most hateful places on the Internet, becoming more and more unrepresentative by the day with many people who have no interest at all in local NI news – I’m sure these Belfast Telegraph “journalists” could rustle up several “hate crimes” every week on their own site. Its “point-scoring” and very direct commenting system only eggs it on.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Once the PSNI decided to act in response to Gregory Campbell’s complaint, then they were duty bound to follow up on similar cases thereafter.

    Quincy has not only forgotten to mention the (to date) one loyalist bandsman arrested over threats made to Daithi McKay, but also the arrest and charging of Kevin Meehan for making a statement allegedly ‘welcoming’ the killing of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr.

    Also, subsequent news reports would indicate that the threats against the catholic Rangers player are being treated seriously by the Scottish police- though tonight’s astonishing jury verdict in the Lennon case would suggest they needn’t bother….

  • Mick Fealty

    Just to be clear, far as Slugger is concerned, if you break the law you can expect zero support from me.

  • Quincey Dougan

    Well to be honest, both G.C. and N.L. are a world away in nature from even the latest Tele article. Daithi’s isnt in the same league as those cases (more what Daithi wants to see as opposed to what actually was there), but it wasnt mentioned simply because you cant mention everything. But thanks for raising it. There are many other examples.

    The Tele’s particular brand of ‘news manufacture’ can be seen regularly.

    On the Police investigation- that means nothing. Someone has refered it to them. they investigate. This one will be thrown out.

  • Quincey Dougan

    Chris im not aware of any arrest in the Dathi case. One youth was questioned as far as im aware, nothing else.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Daithi’s isnt in the same league as those cases

    Quincey
    Do please enlighten us with the distinction between the remarks made about Gregory Campbell and those made about Daithi McKay.

    I’d hate to think your assertion was grounded in anything other than fact, Quincey…..

  • Mac

    “Well to be honest, both G.C. and N.L. are a world away in nature from even the latest Tele article. Daithi’s isnt in the same league as those cases ”

    Gregory was threatened when someone posted the comment ‘he needed one in back of the head’, Daithi called the police after he alleges someone posted that ‘he should be shot’, and the police made an arrest and are now in the process of an ongoing investigation based on his complaint.

    I’m not sure how your ‘league’ system works, but I’d suggest it’s a flawed system.

  • andnowwhat

    @Quincey

    GC totally dissed the findings of a report on the killing of 14 innocent people by the British army. A young man got angry about that and made a very strong statement, one he stills stands by.

    I’ll just cut to the latter case where some guys on a Rangers forum, unofficial it may be, make statements about Aaron who is in an enviroment where threats have become physically manifest in the form of bombs and bullets in the post

  • Quincey Dougan

    Context Chris dictates the validity of what is a threat and what is an expression of anger or frustration. One comment needs to be taken in context with preceding and even following posts/ comments, not singularly. In the supposed Daithi threat it was part of a general and obvious rant, expressing anger and frustration. The GC and NL comments were very much stand alone assertions by the individuals involved.

    That is my opinion.

  • Quincey Dougan

    incidently it wasnt my goal to make this a party political blog.

  • Mac

    So calling for violence on an individual as part of a baying internet mob is ok, just don’t be a lone voice?

    Gotcha.

  • northbelfastview

    If the Tele is looking for a story here is one from North Antrim.

    “APPEALS have been made for everyone in Moyle to “take a step back” following a week when ‘death threats’ were made against Unionist councillors and loyalists protested on the streets of Bushmills which led to Council Chairperson, Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent), cancelling two engagements”.

    http://www.ballymoneytimes.co.uk/news/local/appeal_for_calm_1_3010133

  • Chris Donnelly

    Context Chris dictates the validity of what is a threat and what is an expression of anger or frustration. One comment needs to be taken in context with preceding and even following posts/ comments, not singularly. In the supposed Daithi threat it was part of a general and obvious rant, expressing anger and frustration. The GC and NL comments were very much stand alone assertions by the individuals involved.

    Dubious, to say the least, Quincey.

    The threats against Daithi were as ‘real’ as those against Gregory Campbell. The anger and frustration excuse could be used by both to the same extent. Indeed, the language employed on both occasions was very similar (and even more so with regard to an individual who subsequently made a threat against Daithi but who has yet to be arrested to my knowledge.)

    It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the only ‘context’ which matters in your estimation is whether or not the target was a unionist.

  • Quincey Dougan

    And some could say the opposite about your good self Chris, that is the unfortunate nature of this small part of the world.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Quincey
    Given that I have clearly stated my own belief that the PSNI action in pursuing those responsible is ‘fair game’ so long as it is a policy operated on a consistent basis, then I’m afraid you can’t hide behind that charge.

  • Quincey Dougan

    Well Neil Lennon hasnt been on the Road to Damascus has he?

    I dont disagree with you, so i dont see what the issue is. I merely have pointed out my opinion that the GC, NL and DMcK are not contextually equal. Simple as that. if it goes that length, a court will eventually come to its own conclusion.

  • andnowwhat

    Quincey Dougan (profile) 31 August 2011 at 10:04 pm
    Well Neil Lennon hasnt been on the Road to Damascus has he?

    I dont disagree with you, so i dont see what the issue is. I merely have pointed out my opinion that the GC, NL and DMcK are not contextually equal. Simple as that. if it goes that length, a court will eventually come to its own conclusion.

    And exactly what road has Gregory Campbell been on?

    I don’t think he’s changed one iota since the famous docu when he proudly holstered his PPA if not well before.

    Actually, the only place I can see views that are similar Greg’s are on the posts I see copied/pasted from P.U.L.S.E or on F.A.I.R.’s

  • andnowwhat

    I heard a brief mention that there have been taunts by nationalists of the young Rangers player. Anyone else no anything else about this?

  • Neil

    Where does this sort of sourcing of news end? Where will this method of searching for abuse or threat or offence leave us in terms of internet usage?

    It ends with people realising their comments on the internet could land them in court and they adjust their behaviour accordingly.

  • Skinner

    Quincey

    Very good blog and I agree with your point. No one is served by the Belfast Tele and other media outlets taking comments out of context and twisting them for a good story. It has happened to politicians for years and everyone expects that but now it is happening to ordinary people on forums and social networking. The Rangers one in particular you mention because the journalist ought to have known if he/she read the thread properly that the comment was made ironically. The same goes for that chap who was arrested for his comment about blowing up an airport.

  • “If the Tele is looking for a story here is one from North Antrim.”

    NBW, it costs money to send journalists north of Glengormley. Perhaps the Belfast-centric MSM will pursue this story in more depth now that Jim Allister has drawn Alex Attwood into the conversation.

    Alex has also some planning and environmental issues to resolve in the Kingdom of Moyle with Alan Fraser, son of the late Belfast developer, Fred Fraser. Alan had successfully brought almost all Moyle Councillors together so it’s been most unfortunate that the Chairman has brought such controversy back into the Council chamber.

  • “PSNI action in pursuing those responsible is ‘fair game’ so long as it is a policy operated on a consistent basis”

    Chris, police officers are not permitted to operate on a level playing field; some folks, including elected representatives, still enjoy the privilege of immunity from prosecution.

  • This hasty News Letter account of events in Bushmills is very poor indeed. It’s obvious that the claims made have not been properly checked out; a few quotes have been strung together and attached to a choreographed photo. For example, the Chairman did get out of his car but didn’t enter the car park and there’s no mention of the PSNI mobile support units which were parked in a church car park on the other side of town.

    Councillors and others linked to the Dundarave changing rooms project have now received an invitation to a reception in Moyle Council offices in Ballycastle where, presumably, the official opening will now take place.

  • An update on the original story:
    http://tinyurl.com/3fpe6d7