Griffith Uni to offer online global social media law course

By MARK PEARSON

WE are now taking applications for a fully online global social media law course which I will be teaching from Griffith University, starting in March 2015.

social-media-law-risk-management-postgraduate-degree-griffith

 

Titled ‘Social Media Law and Risk Management’, the course is targeted at professional communicators internationally who want an introduction to the laws impacting on social media use and other strategies for strategic social media management including social media policies and risk analysis.

The course can be undertaken as a fully online, stand-alone unit if you just want these skills and may not be able to attend in person, or as part of a suite of four courses in the Graduate Certificate in Crisis Management for students who can visit Griffith University’s Gold Coast or Nathan campuses for their other three courses.

You can read more about the entry requirements, application procedures and fees for the social media law course here.

The course examines the dynamic role of social media law and risk management in a range of social and political contexts internationally, particularly in the averting of communication crises. It provides advanced knowledge and skills in the use of social media by government, non-governmental organisations, business, and the general public. Its special focus is on law and risk management in social media in a global context.

After explaining the basic legal concepts required for effective analysis and understanding, and the elements of stakeholder theory underpinning the course, we then proceed to examine key areas of the law arising internationally when professional communicators use social media. These include defamation, contempt of court, privacy, confidentiality, discrimination, copyright, consumer law and censorship. This feeds into a critical examination of the terms of use of social media providers, effective social media policy formulation and social media risk management – all key skills and understandings for crisis communication.

The course can be completed online with no requirement for on-campus attendance. For on-campus students two meetings per semester will be held on the Nathan and Gold Coast campuses for students to meet colleagues and workshop material with instructors. Learning activities will include video lectures, readings, online discussion board activity, social media interaction, multiple choice quizzes and problem-based learning. Each module is focused upon a social media law or risk scenario where students are challenged to draw upon their readings, case studies and professional experience to map out an appropriate diagnosis and strategic course of action.

‘Social Media Law and Risk Management’ addresses one of the key organisational and crisis communication phenomena of the modern era – engaging effectively and internationally with a range of stakeholders using social media while being cognisant of laws, risks and policies.

The course integrates theory and practice by introducing both stakeholder theory and jurisprudential theory of legal systems in the first module and then applying both in the balance of the course throughout learning activities and assessment tasks. The readings, learning problems and portfolio are designed to allow students to find recent cases from within their own jurisdictions internationally to make their learning most relevant to their particular nation, state or territory of professional practice.

Of course, social media is an international medium and therefore all students need to be broadly aware of the laws and risks applying globally. The course bears a direct relationship to students’ professional needs as crisis communicators in a variety of career roles – public relations, journalism, government communications, corporate communications, social media moderation, marketing, human resources and law.

Assessment includes a reflective learning journal, online multiple choice quizzes, and a written assignment involving the critical appraisal of a social media policy.

Please drop me a line at m.pearson@griffith.edu.au if you would like further information after reading the course brochure available here.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Mindful Journalism in a nutshell: @journlaw keynote to JEANZ

By MARK PEARSON

EARLIER this month I had the honour of delivering the keynote address to the Journalism Education Association of New Zealand annual conference in Christchurch.

MindfulJournalismCoverThe topic was “Mindful Journalism: towards a new ethics of compassion”, and I offer the summary here (pdf: JEANZMindfulJsm2014) in the form of my Powerpoint slides presented at that conference.

The term ‘mindful journalism’ is a concept I introduced more than a year ago in the inaugural UNESCO World Press Freedom address at AUT University Auckland, drawing upon the earlier substantive work by esteemed colleague, Emeritus Professor Shelton Gunaratne, who has been working for decades on the intersection between Buddhism and journalism.

I developed my application of this in a paper to the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) conference in Dublin in July 2014, which was revised for publication as a forthcoming article in Ethical Space due to be published this month (December).

Professor Gunaratne and I refined our thoughts further in a book co-edited with Sri Lankan colleague Dr Sugath Senarath [pdf file] from the University of Colombo, with Professor Gunaratne as lead editor and contributions from a range of other scholars.

Routledge New York accepted our proposal for hard cover publication in March 2015 as part of its Research in Journalism series.

Our book is titled Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach and it features chapters by several scholars from Asia, North America, Australia and Europe. Please see the publisher’s synopsis.

My address to journalism education colleagues in Christchurch this month picked up on some of the key themes of Mindful Journalism, particularly those linked to the Eightfold Path.

My key point was that one does not have to be a Buddhist to incorporate the key principles of mindful journalism into one’s work. In fact, most of these same moral principles are evident in the teachings of all the world’s great religions. However, for those who lack a moral framework for their ethical decision-making, a secular application of these non-theistic principles can offer a moral compass to those who feel they lack one because they offer a series of normative or aspirational goals we can strive for, but rarely reach. They also provide a schema for the analysis of ethical decision-making by journalists.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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Is Australia an emerging Secret State?

By MARK PEARSON

My speech to the Pacific Journalism Review 20th Anniversary conference in Auckland, on November 27, 2014 was titled: ‘Suppression, sentences, surveillance, security and cynical spin: Is Australia an emerging Secret State?’

PJR Review Conf Notice 2014 550wideYou can read an abridged version of that speech in The Conversation here.

You can also hear the full audio of my presentation here.

In it I track the first year in office the Abbott Government, where it has:

  • blocked the media from information on the important human rights issue of the fate of asylum seekers
  • initiated major budget cuts on the publicly funded ABC
  • used anti-terror laws to win a ‘super injunction’ on court proceedings that might damage its international relations
  • ramped up surveillance powers of national security agencies and banning reporting of security operations
  • proposed increased jail terms for leaks about security matters
  • moved to stop not-for-profits advocating against government policy in their service agreements
  • abolished the Office of the Information Commissioner for abolition, promising tardy FOI appeals
  • proposed the taxing of telcos to pay for its new surveillance measures, potentially a modern version of licensing the press.

Australia has at least purported to be an exemplar of media freedom, transparency and good governance throughout the region, but continues to censor those who teach and counsel on those initiatives throughout the region. Here is the standard gag clause from the most current ($3 million Transparency International) contract:

Gagclause

My conclusion is that Australia might not be a secret state like North Korea but it is certainly moving towards a “state of secrecy” and it is doing so with no constitutional brake in our country on censorship.

It is now sending a mixed message to the region on free expression, transparency and good governance.

You can read an abridged version of that speech in The Conversation here.

You can also hear the full audio of my presentation here.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Accuracy, independence and impartiality – Kellie Riordan #jeraa2014 live blog

LIVE BLOG

By MARK PEARSON

Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Kellie Riordan reported to the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia’s conference in Sydney on her recent report on how legacy media and digital natives approach ethical standards in the digital age.

ABC's Kellie Riordan addressing the JERAA conference on her research into digital and legacy media ethics

ABC’s Kellie Riordan addressing the JERAA conference on her research into digital and legacy media ethics

She recently served as a fellow at the Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism where she looked at three traditional and three new media providers and their ethical standards and approaches.

Riordan noted a shift in the notion of accuracy.

“Now we are equally looking to journalists to tell us what is not true, and the best example is the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub,” she said.

It was set up to debunk myths, and originated with the myth that there was a power surge in the London Underground when in fact the London bombings had occurred.

She also identified corrections were now being issued that were much more open and honest and developed brand trust. These were done particularly well by digital media.

“Traditionally newsrooms have been closed organisations and we haven’t let the public in on how we came to decisions,” she said.

She showed an example from the digital outlet Grantland which gave an extensive debriefing on how they came to an editorial decision when they got something wrong.

Riordan profiled The Quartz qz.com site which does not subscribe to impartiality as a standard but boast about their transparency and honesty with their audience.

On the issue of independence, she gave several examples of advertorials in some outlets that were not necessarily flagged as paid content on search engines.

She cited Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith arguing that audiences were already quite literate about different types of sponsored content on the Internet, whereas others felt the journalism brand required the disclosure of advertising.

She found a range of views across new media on the issue of impartiality and that Quartz advocated an ‘evidence driven, facts based’ style of journalism.

User generated content, interaction with audiences and more extensive use of hyperlinks for attribution were important developments to improve accountability and transparency, she said.

Riordan concluded by calling for greater transparency, more open forms of journalism, and ‘a voice that is of the web driven by reporters rather than news brands’.

She suggested digital tools like hyperlinks, context for corrections, more voices and transparency would add to accountability.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Journalism privileges and accountability in the digital age – Denis Muller #jeraa2014 live blog

LIVE BLOG

By MARK PEARSON

The digital age has increased both possibilities and risks for journalism, according to media ethicist Dr Denis Muller from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Denis Muller addresses the JERAA conference on the legitimacy of journalism

Denis Muller addresses the JERAA conference on the legitimacy of journalism

Muller was addressing the privileges, legitimacy and accountability of journalism at the annual conference of the Journalism Education and Research Association in Sydney.

He said the types of privilege offered to journalism were access to powerful people, places to observe events, and certain legal protections, however the digital revolution had made the privileges for those from big media inadequate for others like bloggers.

“This is a narrow and increasingly irrelevant basis for conferring legitimacy,” he said.

“Legitimacy of the journalistic function has more important bases than this.”

He said legitimacy of journalism as a function in a democracy is grounded in a combination of rights and socio-political necessity.

Journalism had a contrctual relationship with the community based on factual and constextual reliability, impartiality, separation of fact from comment and provision of a “bedrock of trustworthy information”.

The legitimacy of the journalistic function rests on the indispensability of its function, its capacity to animate free speech and the keeping of its promises,” Dr Muller said.

He highlighted privileges at law under the Commonwealth Privacy Act and State Shield laws – contingent on media organisations being signed up to an accountability mechanism.

Others not contingent on such accountability were the privileges under the Australian Consumer Law and the Commonwealth shield laws.

The latter protected anyone providing news to the public, seemingly including bloggers and others reporting news.

He reviewed the regulatory recommendations of the Finkelstein Review, the Convergence Review and the Leveson Inquiry and explained there was no accountability mechanism for journalists outside of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance sanctions for its members breaching its Code of Ethics.

He said he had worked with colleague Dr Judith Townend from City University London’s Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism comparing the suggested accountability mechanisms for the Australian news media.

They argued for

  • access to incentives in the form of privileges,
  • contingent on signing up to accountability mechanism,
  • and that this mechanism be open to all who practise journalism.

The first step was the creation of a consensual set of ethical standards – professional norms and standards, they argued.

“News organisations should take a ‘get in’ rather than a ‘get you’ approach,” he said.

 

 

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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On the Crisis in Journalism – Barbie Zelizer #jeraa2014 live blog

LIVE BLOG

By MARK PEARSON

Raymond Williams Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania Dr Barbie Zelizer took issue with the framing of a ‘crisis of journalism’ for her keynote address to the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia conference in Sydney today (November 25).

zelizer

Professor Barbie Zelizer addresses the 2014 JERAA conference

 

She said notion of a crisis in journalism was a culturally determined phenomenon anchored in the Enlightenment.

She drew on definitions of crisis as disruption, suddenness, loss, urgency and helplessness.

The label of ‘crisis’ could change murky developments into a manageable phenomenon.

“Crisis is a temporarily defined moment,” she said. “Crisis is identifiable, finite, something that can be grasped, treated and controlled. It gives us a sense of closure.

“By offering us closure, concreteness and coherency, crisis offers us certainty and control.”

“As an institution journalism has always had an affinity with a certain kind of modernity,” she said.

“It was born of a particular time and place.”

She argued the discipline of journalism studies developed because it needed to challenge traditional narratives of journalism.

There was a reliance on a modern Anglo-American mindset and crisis offered a way out of murky, out of control challenges.

The gravitation to ‘crisis’ followed a pattern of how journalism had traditionally talked about itself.

“Across the board we hear that journalism is over. What’s different about today is that durability is no longer assured.”

She asked whether journalism’s mass audience ever as mass as assumed and whether there had ever had been agreement about what journalism is or is for.

Earlier points in time such as the development of radio, the wire photo and television presented challenges and disagreements.

“There is value in both rupture and in continuity,” she said.

These narratives see crisis as resolvable or apocalyptic.

“All of this is a long way of saying today’s journalistic environments are contingent and diverse,” she said.

“Uncertainty rules in institutional settings, generally without us being aware of it.”

She concluded by suggesting:

1. We assume the centrality of crisis but rarely find data to support it;

2. We identify various nodes supporting the technological determination of the crisis frame; and

3. We assume an overturning of value – what was once seen as central (the newspaper, objectivity) is now seen as toxic.

“Uncertainty is ours to live with not to control or eradicate,” she said.

“The question remains whether uncertainty can ever end in a landscape that is institutionally driven.”

She concluded with a quote from T.S. Eliot: “If you aren’t in over your head how do you know how tall you are?”

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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