Freedom to express, but not freedom to incite?

Western liberal democracies pride themselves on the right to freedom of expression. But social media has within the last decade or so had a profound impact on the possibilities of political expression. The suspension of Donald Trump’s access to Twitter, Facebook and now YouTube following the assault on the Capitol on 6th January has opened up a new debate on whether this ban is contrary to the right of free speech. The irony is that Trump’s supporters have accused these …

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“Journalists have always had to have integrity”

The media are at a crossroads, with fears over the future of some of Northern Ireland’s best known newspapers. Existing trends favouring social media over print newspapers have been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, with additional financial pressures from a collapse in advertising revenues. This is an appropriate moment to reflect on the future of the media and on ethical responsibilities on journalists working in a post-conflict society. The latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust features an interview …

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Has Coronavirus helped us remember what the internet is really for?

Just over a week ago I was in my office at the BBC building at MediaCity in Salford. I was in the traditional end-of-project panic, trying to finish the series of radio documentaries I’ve been making for the BBC World Service. These programmes explore how digital technology and the online world has changed the ways the religious practice their faith – how mobile apps help the busy worship alone, and virtual reality church lets the remote or disabled worship with others. You can hear all four here. …

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Social media transparency data is giving real time insight on party strategy at #GE2019

The upcoming general election is the first general election in the UK where social media companies are publishing transparency data, showing which political advertisements are being displayed on the platforms, who is paying for them, and the amounts being spent. Facebook is, by far, the largest platform for social media political advertisements in the UK. In the first full week of the campaign to the 4th of November, there was £175k of spending on campaign related advertisements on the platform, …

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The NI Department of Justice #EndingTheHarm campaign viewed over a million times on Snapchat in August 2019

Transparency data released this week by ephemeral messaging app Snapchat has shown that the NI Department of Justice #EndingTheHarm campaign made over a million impressions over an 18 day period last month. The campaign, part of the Tackling Paramilitarism programme, made 1,138,048 impressions over the course of the campaign. Of the 15 organizations who had political campaigns on the social network in the UK over the course of 2019 so far, it ranked 8th in terms of impressions behind Police …

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Stephen NOLAN: Enhancing democratic debate in the era of fake news?

Stephen NOLAN: Enhancing democratic debate in the era of fake news? by Allan LEONARD 26 February 2019 As part of their engagement programme, Queen’s University Belfast hosted a lecture by radio and television personality, Stephen Nolan, who was introduced by Ryan Feeney. Much of Nolan’s lecture was an autobiography of how he has developed his career in journalism and working for the BBC. His views on the topics in the lecture title — “Enhancing the Democratic Debate in the Era …

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Just Say Momo – how the PSNI are helping to spread hoaxes and hysteria online

If you are a member of any parents’ social media groups, then you might have heard of “Momo”, apparently a game that challenges children to perform dangerous tasks. The story is often accompanied by a horrifying picture, which is actually a sculpture created by a Japanese special effects company called Link Factory. The story is a well-known hoax, and the urban legend debunking site Snopes article has an excellent article on the subject. At the time of writing, the hoax …

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Earning trust “story by story”

Earning trust “story by story”: Can we believe the media? The role of journalism in the digital age by Allan LEONARD 4 October 2018 Ulster University — along with the UK press regulatory body, Impress, and the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) — jointly hosted a symposium event at its Belfast campus: “Can we believe the media? The role of journalism in the digital age”. Keynote speakers were Jonathan Heawood (Chief Executive Officer, Impress) and Peter Feeney (Press …

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Rugby Rape Trial: Stop Professing Certainty

As many foresaw and as the judge warned, the rape trial involving the two Ulster and Ireland rugby players has caused a significant backlash on social media. Throughout the trial but especially once the verdict was delivered everyone seemed to become an expert and Facebook and Twitter were filled with people proclaiming to know whether the verdict reached by the jury was or was not correct and what this result should mean. On twitter, the hashtag “Ibelieveher” was taken up …

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Social media and the problem of hidden identities…

Jamie Bryson is a well known anti-agreement Loyalist activist with an interest in law, politics and writing. He is author of “My Only Crime Was Loyalty”, an account of his role in the Union Flag protests and his subsequent lengthy and complex criminal trial. There is a great hypocrisy within Northern Ireland’s social media orbit. There is also a great vacuum whereby harassment, trolling and outright abuse is viewed as ‘lovable trolling’, so long as the ‘right’ people are targeted. …

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You have to admire the Russians. They are the ultimate internet trolls…

Seems Theresa May is getting annoyed at Russian meddling in Western politics. From the BBC: Senior Russian politicians have dismissed accusations by Theresa May that Moscow has meddled in elections and carried out cyber-espionage. On Monday night, Mrs May accused Moscow of “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West”. She said Vladimir Putin’s government was trying to “undermine free societies”. The Russians hit back with: #UK Prime Minister @theresa_may on @Russia: “We know what you are doing”. We …

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The Conservatives have a mountain to climb to challenge Labour’s social media dominance

In the wake of this year’s snap general election, it has become apparent that age, not social class, has become the new fault line in British politics. Analysis published by YouGov highlights the woeful electoral performance by the Conservatives amongst younger voters. Amongst 18 and 19 year old voters at the 2017 general election, Labour were ahead of the Tories by a staggering 47 points (66% to 19%), and were 40 points ahead of the Conservatives with voters in their …

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Elections becoming a big business for Facebook

Social media is increasingly becoming more important in the fighting of elections. Political parties can post videos or short picture messages with slogans and then, for a price, insert that on the newsfeed of groups according to location, age, gender, etc. If candidates hit the right nerve with the public they can crowd source enough money to run their campaign within a day. It’s less intrusive than phone canvassing (which never really took off here) and besides more and more …

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What is it that our media don’t ‘get’ about social media…

It’s part of my day job to advise on how to engage with social media. For the most part and for most institutions, it is a largely upbeat story. But for politicians, well, it often gets a little complicated. It used to be that only our journalists got intense lobbying from party press offices. Now it’s as likely to come via the soft power of Twitter and Facebook. So today, Mike Nesbitt, clearly getting a little exasperated with some corporate …

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“All the time, journalists were missing out on what was actually happening.”

Post the 2016 Irish General Election, RTÉ’s Science & Technology Correspondent, Will Goodbody, was quick off the mark to assess whether, as billed, #ge16 really was “the first truly social media election in Ireland”. In the coming weeks, when the dust has settled, the candidates and parties will be reflecting on what went right, and in many cases wrong, with their campaigns. As part of that post mortem they will no doubt ponder what role was played by social media, who used …

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The Pope Is Still A Catholic

Lefty atheists from North London to Northern California are in outrage today at the latest shock revelations that Pope Francis is, in fact, a Catholic. “The pope played us for fools, trying to have it both ways”, thundered Michaelangelo Signorile in the Huffington Post, outraged that the Pope had (briefly) met Kim Davis. Ms Davis, you’ll remember, is the rather silly Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on ‘biblical’ grounds while herself being on …

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Blogging: Why I bother doing it.

Blogging, why the hell do you bother? This is the question that bloggers of all stripes get asked A LOT and in the past week I have been getting this question more often than I usually do. It’s a fair enough question I suppose. There is no secure income from it, it is generally looked down  upon from the main stream media and when most people think of a blogger a tin foil hat or a techie geek image comes …

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It wasn’t quite Twitter wot won it – social media and the General Election

In the end, it was hardly a case of “as Twitter goes, so goes the nation”. If the election had been decided by the number of followers each candidate had before the election, Ed Miliband would have been elected Prime Minister, albeit needing the help of the Liberal Democrats and, um, the Pirate Party. The FT Data blog (£) has some fascinating charts showing how the conversation on Twitter was dominated by supporters of Labour and the SNP. It is apparent …

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