I have had another op-ed published by Democratic Audit UK on the coronavirus crisis. I discuss the early findings from research conducted by Pew Research Center and Ofcom investigating how people respond to misinformation and disinformation about the virus shared on social media. Despite some signs people are factchecking using official sources, I argue that we must not be complacent in our efforts to counter false information about the pandemic. Thanks to Alice Park for her help publishing this piece. It can be accessed here
I have written a post for Democratic Audit on the spread of coronavirus ‘fake news’ over the past few months. I discuss how false stories about COVID-19 ‘cures’ can have deadly consequences, as seen in Iran where hundreds of people died after drinking methanol in the mistaken belief it would protect them from the virus. While conspiracy theories about the virus being a ‘biological weapon’ have emerged online, their impact should not be exaggerated. Instead, we should focus on the misinformation spread by political leaders such as Donald Trump, which is more likely to have an impact on the behaviour of citizens.
Thanks to Alice Park and the fantastic DA team for their help in publishing this. The post can be found here
Yesterday I was interviewed by Toby Foster on BBC Radio Sheffield about the ‘fake news’ circulating online about coronavirus. We spoke about some of the ways people can identify false information on social media and the role of politicians in spreading misinformation about the virus. Thanks to Toby, Kat, Katie from BBC Radio Sheffield and Victoria Wood for making it happen.
You can listen back to the interview here (beginning at 3:10:38)
I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Stephanie Lam from Forge Press about the recent UK Government Online Harms White Paper, which proposed that OfCom be given powers to fine social media companies who fail to remove harmful content from their platforms. Thanks to Stephanie for the interview and for writing the piece. It can be accessed here
I have a new article in the journal First Monday out today. Entitled ‘PSNIRA vs. peaceful protesters? YouTube, ‘sousveillance’ and the policing of the union flag protests,’ it explores how Youtubers responded to footage of alleged police brutality during the union flag protests in Northern Ireland between December 2012 and March 2013.
Drawing on a qualitative analysis of 1,586 comments posted under 36 ‘sousveillance’ videos, I argue that responses to these videos were shaped by competing narratives on the legitimacy of police actions during the flag protests. This footage focussed attention on the anti-social behaviour of the protesters rather than the alleged police brutality referred to in the video descriptions. The paper concludes by considering the problematic nature of exploring imagined sousveillance, as was the case here, through the collection and analysis of ‘easy data’ scraped from online platforms such as YouTube. The paper can be accessed here
I attended the annual MeCCSA conference at the University of Brighton last week, which brought together a very diverse group of Media, Communication and Cultural Studies researchers to discuss its core theme ‘Media Interactions and Environments.’
My paper, ‘Peace on Facebook? Problematising social media as spaces for intergroup contact in divided societies’, critically evaluated the cyber optimist notion that ICTs might facilitate more associative models of peacebuilding in contemporary societies. Using examples such as Peace on Facebook, I argued that the corporate logic of social media has significant implications for efforts to foster positive intergroup contact in deeply-divided societies. Online platforms are not benign actors and they turbocharge mis-and disinformation that contributes to sectarian violence in countries such as India and Northern Ireland. The slides can be found below:
I have an article, ‘Remain Alliance’ win BBC Northern Ireland Leaders’ Debate (online at least), in UK Election Analysis 2019: Media, Voters and the Campaign, out today. In the piece, I discuss some preliminary findings from a Twitter study of reactions to the BBC NI Leaders’ debate on 10 December 2019.
Many congratulations (and thanks) to the fantastic Bournemouth University editorial team of Dan Jackson, Einar Thorne, Darren Lilleker and Nathalie Weidhase. Looks like an excellent read!
Unfortunately I am unable to attend today’s Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference at Edge Hill University. Thanks to the conference organisers for allowing me to submit a virtual presentation. The screencast can be found here and the abstract and slides for my talk are below:
‘Curation, Connectivity and Creativity: Reflections on using Twitter to teach Digital Activism
Dr. Paul Reilly, University of Sheffield
How can teachers leverage the connective affordances of Twitter to enhance student learning within Higher Education? How do students respond to content shared on module hashtags? In this virtual presentation, I will consider these questions by discussing my own experience of using Twitter in my Digital Activism modules over the past five years. During this period, I created hashtags such as #actandprotest and #digiadvocates in order to curate digital resources for my students at Leicester and Sheffield, as well as to encourage them to share relevant news items, blogs, and research papers at appropriate points during the course. I will reflect on what I refer to as the three ‘C’s of using Twitter in the context of Higher Education. First, the microblogging site provides unprecedented opportunities for the curation of resources. In the case of my Digital Activism teaching, real-time case studies such as Occupy Wall Street and the ‘Arab Spring’ were integrated into sessions through the use of Twitter to share links to blogs and news media coverage. Second, there is the connection with students who were using links shared on these hashtags to deepen their knowledge about theories such as connective action. Some even went as far as to use #actandprotest and #digiadvocates to share resources they had found with their classmates (and me). Finally, there is the ability to showcase the creativity of the students studying Digital Activism. For example, subvertisements (remixed logos of corporations that critique consumerism) were shared under #digiadvocates with the consent of the students who created them. This received very positive feedback from the class, as well as academics and students who were not enrolled in the module but were following the hashtag. The presentation concludes by considering how Twitter may be used to support student learning in the future.
Dr Suay Ozkula and I are at the 10th annual Social Media & Society conference in Toronto this weekend. We are presenting three papers today (20th July) which address issues pertinent to the conference’s theme ‘Rethinking Privacy & Trust in the Social Media Age’.
The first paper, entitled ‘Whose data is it anyway? Doing ethical social media research in the age of datafication ‘, examines the responsibilities of researchers to social media users who themselves are the subject of mass surveillance conducted by online platforms. We draw on the key guidelines for internet research since 2002 in order to critique the two most commonly proposed solutions to these issues, namely informed consent and de-identification. Data from Eurobarometer and the Pew Internet and American Life project is used to examine the growth in digital resignation amongst users, as well as their expectations in relation to academic use of their data. We conclude with a number of propositions for social media researchers, which include the principle that all research of online platforms be considered human participant research and that all ethical stances be produced on a case-by-case basis. We argue that researchers have an obligation to turn these data subjects into ‘knowing publics’ by making their methods for collecting and analysing data more transparency. They should also engage unaware participants, especially those from whom consent has not been obtained, throughout each stage of the project lifecycle.
The second paper is called ‘Strategic techniques for qualitative Sampling online- a review of social media monitoring tools’. It examines whether tools such as Google Trends and Hashtagify can be used to identify qualitative case studies that are meaningful and broadly representative of broader social phenomena. We discuss relevant issues such as digital bias in our review of how digital methods can be deployed in support of qualitative research. The paper argues that these tools have great potential in finding suitable entry points for researchers exploring societal issues on platforms such as Twitter. They can help identify key influencers and metadata that builds a more nuanced picture of how information flows on social media. However, the black box nature of these tools needs to be acknowledged as a limitation of digital methods. We propose that researchers should triangulate these results by using more than one monitoring tool in their construction of social media data samples.
We are also delivering a poster entitled ‘Easy data, usual suspects, same old places? A systematic review of digital activism research, 1995-2019′. This summarises our ongoing work examining the methods and case studies used in this emergent field. We find evidence to suggest that Twitter was by far the most researched platform during this period, with the Global South neglected in this work. We also explore the researchers and journals that are disproportionately represented in this body of research.