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New course helps manage social media risk

By MARK PEARSON

Griffith University has issued the following release on our fully online global social media law course which I will be teaching from March 2015.

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

New course helps manage social media risk

Managing your social media risk and protecting your brand is the focus of a fully online global social media law course to be offered at Griffith University from March 2015.

Social Media Law and Risk Management is aimed at professional communicators internationally who want an introduction to the laws impacting on social media use and other strategies for strategic social media management.

“It 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,’’ says course convenor Professor Mark Pearson.

“The course examines the dynamic role of social media law and risk management in a range of social and political contexts internationally, particularly in averting communication crises.

“It provides advanced knowledge and skills in the use of social media by government, non-governmental organisations, business and the general public.”

Professor Pearson is the author of Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued – A Global guide to the Law for Anyone Writing Online, co-author (with Mark Polden) of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law and the Australian correspondent for Reporters Without Borders. His Twitter handle is @journlaw.

Social Media Law and Risk Management is offered online as a stand-alone course or as part of a suite of four courses in the Graduate Certificate in Crisis Communication for students who can visit Griffith University’s Gold Coast or Nathan campuses for their other three courses.

Media Contact: Deborah Marshall, 0409 613 992, d.marshall@griffith.edu.au

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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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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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A taste of PR law #publicrelations #auslaw

By MARK PEARSON

I have just completed a legal chapter for a public relations text edited by colleague Jane Johnston. In researching the chapter I came across several Australian cases where PR practitioners had found themselves in legal tangles. Here is a taste of them, but you’ll have to wait for Jane’s new book to get more detail!

According to the Australasian Legal Information Institute (www.austlii.edu.au), the term ‘public relations’ has only been spoken 10 times in High Court judgments, with none of the cases having public relations as a key factor in the decision-making. The mentions did, however, give some indication of the way our leading justices viewed the profession and some hints of the legalities of PR. For example, the 2004 case of Zhu v Treasurer of NSW [2004] 218 CLR 530 involved a dispute between the Sydney Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG) in 2000 and a sub-contractor who had been licensed to market an “Olympics Club” package to residents of China. ‘Public relations’ formed part of the intellectual property he was licensed to use, which included “letterheads, stationery, display materials and other advertising, promotional and public relations materials approved by SOCOG to promote the Olympic Club” (para 59).  The case establishes both contract law and intellectual property law as important to the role of PR professionals.

In Sankey v Whitlam (1978) 142 CLR 1, the High Court identified the importance of keeping secrets and confidentiality in government media relations.  Acting Chief Justice Gibbs quoted an earlier British case where Chief Justice Lord Widgery had acknowledged the practice of ‘leaking’ as a PR tool: “To leak a Cabinet decision a day or so before it is officially announced is an accepted exercise in public relations, but to identify the Ministers who voted one way or another is objectionable.”(para 41).

The term ‘public relations’ has been used much more frequently in other courts and tribunals, with Austlii returning 1387 mentions of the term across all its case law databases. It was used in a host of contexts, including defamation, confidentiality, industrial relations, PR advice as lawyer-client privilege and whether public relations expenses could be claimed as part of a damages claim.

Here is a sampler:

Defamation

Words spoken at a media conference in Adelaide were at the centre of a defamation action in 2012. A Hindley Street nightclub owner sued a neighbouring travel agency operator over a statement she had uttered almost two years earlier in the midst of a media conference he had called to announce an initiative to increase public safety and reduce violence in the central Adelaide precinct. He alleged the travel agency owner had announced loudly to the media gathered at the conference that he – the nightclub owner – was responsible for all the violence in Hindley Street. After hearing from several witnesses (including the nightclub’s public relations consultant) the District Court judge found for the defendant. He said it was more likely the interjector had not made such a blatant defamatory allegation against the nightclub owner and, even if she had, he would only have awarded $7500 in damages. There was no evidence of any actual recording of the words she had spoken despite numerous media representatives being present at the time: Tropeano v. Karidis [2012] SADC 29.

In a Western Australian case in 2006, the consultancy Professional Public Relations (PPR) was ordered to provide all records they had about a DVD recording criticising a proposed brickworks which the director of a building materials company claimed made defamatory statements about him and his company. He suspected a rival building materials company – a client of PPR – was behind the production, and wanted this confirmed so that he could commence legal action: Bgc (Australia) Pty Ltd v Professional  Public Relations  Pty Ltd & Anor [2006] WASC 175.

Contempt

The most famous sub judice breach in a PR context came in 1987 when former NSW Premier Neville Wran called a media conference where he stated that he believed his friend – High Court Justice Lionel Murphy – was innocent of serious charges he was facing. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph published the comments under the heading ‘Murphy innocent—Wran. Court orders retrial’. Both Wran and the Daily Telegraph were convicted of contempt, with Wran fined $25,000 and the newspaper $200,000: Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v. Wran (1987) 7 NSWLR 616.

Trespass

Nine Network’s A Current Affair program had to pay $25,000 in damages to a property owner in 2002 after they had been invited by the Environment Protection Authority to accompany them when raiding his property for suspected environmental offences. The crew had cameras rolling as they entered the property and confronted the owner. The court held there was an implied licence for journalists to enter the land to request permission to film, but not to film without permission. The court also warned public authorities not to invite journalists on such raids, known as ‘ride-alongs’: TCN Channel Nine Pty Ltd v. Anning [2002] NSWCA 82.

Contract law

A West Australian District Court case involved a consultant to a South African mining company considering buyouts or mergers with other mining companies. The dispute surrounded a “partly written, partly oral and partly implied” agreement to provide “public relations, lobbying, consulting, networking, facilitating and co-ordinating” services: Newshore Nominees Pty Ltd as trustee for the Commercial and Equities Trust v. Durvan Roodepoort Deep, Limited [2004] WADC 57. The problem was that very little was detailed in the agreement, forcing the judge to look at previous work done by the consultant and to come to an estimate of the number of hours he had worked and their value on this occasion. He accepted that an agreement had been reached, and concluded that $250 per hour was a reasonable sum for the services provided, but could not accept that the consultant had worked 14 hour days for 64 days. Instead, he awarded him $830 per day for eight weeks, totalling $33,200 plus expenses.

Consumer law

The public relations consultancy Essential Media Communications used Victorian consumer law to win a Supreme Court injunction to stop another PR firm – EMC2 – from using that abbreviation of their name. They claimed it could ‘mislead and deceive’ their clients, some of whom knew them by that acronym. The court also accepted Essential Media Communications’ argument that EMC2 might have been ‘passing off’ their business as that of the plaintiff:  Essential Media Communications Pty Ltd v EMC2 & Partners [2002] VSC 554. The Federal Court issued an injunction in similar circumstances in an earlier case to stop a public relations company using the name “Weston”, when an existing consultancy was already operating under that name: Re Weston Communications Pty Ltd v Fortune Communications Holdings Limited and the Weston Company Limited [1985] FCA 426.

© Mark Pearson 2013

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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Tweeting and questioning free expression

By MARK PEARSON

It’s gratifying how well students seem to advance their understanding of free expression issues by tweeting about them and extending their inquiry through deeper questions.

Some months ago I unveiled a new media teaching law aimed to help students update their knowledge while triggering key questions they might explore.

Since then I’ve trialled it with one university class and have redesigned it for my new crop of students this year.

It involves students completing their weekly chapter readings from their text and, firstly, tweeting to the class hashtag (#MLGriff) a recent development in that topic area (perhaps a news story, court case, report or blog). Next, they frame an extension question from their textbook – something they still wonder about after reading the chapter.

Our first topic for the year was Freedom of the Press and more than 100 students came up with some excellent resources and questions for discussion.

Their tweets on new developments can be grouped broadly into:

  • Australian updates (High Court free speech decisions, media regulation push, access to detention centres, and Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen);
  • International updates (Greek and Somali crackdowns, Hong Kong protests, Vietnam and Burmese censorship, Mexican murder of a journalist, British campaign against seditious libel, Turkish PM’s media threats); and
  • Social media implications (YouTube bans, Facebook’s news push, social media as the Fourth Estate, unmasking trolls, cloud censoring and Twitter as a polarising agent.)
  • Some of the students’ questions would make excellent topics for future blogs, while others would need a PhD thesis to explore.

Here is a selection, credited to the students who asked them of course:

–       Why has the Australian Federal Government not codified freedom of the press laws despite the High Court making a number of rulings on the issue over the past 20 years? (Christopher Young)

–       As Australia does not have a bill of rights guaranteeing the protection of free expression, how heavily can journalists rely on government support? (Tiarna Lesa)

–       Although lying is not a crime, should it be protected speech for politicians? (Emma Lasker)

–       In a global community, fuelled by the Internet, is it sustainable or viable for some countries to have greater restrictions on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression than others? (Jessica Payne)

–       Has social media and freedom of speech and the press in Australia given us too much liberty to be opinionated – to the point where it becomes difficult for government to make popular political decisions? (Annabel Rainsford)

–       Do the current laws of freedom of speech cover every aspect of the Internet or social media or should new extensive laws be put into place? (Michelle Roger)

–       With no professional awareness of media law and ethical boundaries, can citizen journalists be treated as harshly in the legal system as qualified journalists? (Michaela Eadie)

–       Does freedom of speech protect victims of crime and their families? (Kristy Hutchinson)

–       Are laws that assist the freedom of the press too lenient in a time where false information can be so easily disseminated and seen as factual? (Simon Eddy)

–       Is popular opinion the difference between freedom of speech and vilification? (Ashley Pearson)

–       In the aftermath of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, how has the public’s perception of freedom of the press changed? (Jacob Blunden)

–       How has each country’s political, cultural and historical background influenced their view on freedom of the press? (Emma Knipe)

–       To what extent does the media influence our thoughts and our ability to make informed decisions ourselves? (Harrison Astbury)

–       What are the legal consequences of cyber-bullying? (Angela Eisentrager)

–       Should Australian politicians be allowed to hide behind parliamentary privilege and not be subject to the same laws as other citizens? (Ranui Harmer)

–       Why does Australia have a higher Press Freedom ranking than the US when America has a Bill of Rights? (Jess Henderson).

I hope you can appreciate how much more animated the discussion was in our tutorials when students had thought so deeply about the issues and the key questions. Their tweets added material for fresh examples for their arguments.

It’s a recipe for deeper learning – for the students and me!

Follow us at #MLGriff as we work through media law topics over the next three months. The next topic is Open Justice and the students’ tweets have started to roll in. Chime in with a comment or example if you have one to share.

[The latest rubric follows. Feel free to borrow or adapt it with due credit.]

 

Media Law (Two hard copies needed at start of lecture/tute each week – one for your reference and one to submit. Not accepted by email, sorry.)

 

Date and topic this week:

Name:  

 
YOUR ORIGINAL TWEET ON THIS WEEK’S TOPIC. Must include insightful comment and/or link to recent case or article on topic. NB. INCLUDE IN TWEET:  #MLGriff @journlaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Criterion Poor Fair Good Excellent
Understanding of chapter readings        
Link to a recent development on this week’s chapter topic        
Clear and simple Tweet, perhaps with a witty twist?

 

       
YOUR ORIGINAL ANALYTICAL EXTENSION QUESTION:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Criterion Poor Fair Good Excellent
Understanding of chapter readings        
Important extension of inquiry BEYOND those readings        
Clear and simple question structure        
 

Other comments:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

%

Example of EXCELLENT question on Defamation: “How has the High Court dealt with the political qualified privilege defence since the textbook was published in 2011?”

Example of POOR question on Defamation: “What is defamation and give an example?”

 

© Mark Pearson 2013

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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I’m heading to Griffith U as Professor of Journalism and Social Media

By MARK PEARSON

After 24 fulfilling years at Bond University I am leaving to take up a position as Professor of Journalism and Social Media at neighbouring Griffith University.

This Friday, December 21, will be my last day at Bond U and I will take a few device-free weeks of long service leave before starting at Griffith U on February 4, 2013.

You would appreciate my mixed emotions after almost a quarter of a century at the one institution.

I was lucky to be part of the foundation staff at Australia’s first private university in 1989 and have worked with a host of great people over those years to build a credible Journalism program, culminating in the wonderful ‘J-team’ of colleagues I’m leaving this week.

That said, I’m excited by the role I’ll be taking up at Griffith U and am looking forward to joining the faculty there. I’ve collaborated with at least four of my Griffith colleagues on research projects previously and am keen to resume old friendships and start new ones.

As a journalist I am hesitant to claim ‘firsts’, but I can’t find another “Professor of Journalism and Social Media” on a Google-search, although there are a few professors of social media internationally. Please let me know if you find one out there! Of course, I’ll be specialising in the social media law, ethics, risk and policy space in my social media research and teaching and make no claim to be expert in all things social media.

My teaching timetable has already been decided and I’m able to devote my first semester to lecturing and tutoring in my primary field of media law.

My new email address will be m.pearson@griffith.edu.au , but meanwhile you can contact me at journlaw@gmail.com.

I’ve packed 24 years worth of books and papers into boxes to move up the motorway to my new office at Griffith U’s Gold Coast campus, just a 30 minute drive away.

Then it’s Christmas festivities with the family and three weeks of R&R in our motorhome exploring the north coast of New South Wales over summer.

It’s a great life, and I wish you a peaceful and safe festive season.

My journlaw.com blog will resume in February and I’ll also return to the Twittersphere about then @journlaw from my new home at Griffith U.

Best wishes!

Mark (@journlaw)

© Mark Pearson 2012

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The @journlaw slide presentation to the World Public Relations Forum #wprf

By MARK PEARSON

The World Public Relations Forum was held in Melbourne this week and I participated (with Claire O’Rourke from Essential Media) in a feature presentation on social media law and ethics for public relations practitioners. Here are my slides from my presentation on ‘Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued’ for your use (with full attribution, of course). I hope you find them helpful.

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WorldPRForumMarkPearson(@journlaw)presentation19-11-12

© Mark Pearson 2012

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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A question and tweet-driven approach to deeper media law learning

By MARK PEARSON

What’s in a question? A whole lot of learning, if you ask students in my Ethical and Legal Strategies for the Media class this semester.

It has always been a challenge to get students to digest and understand the relevant chapter readings for the week’s lecture topic. Over the years I have experimented with a range of assessment tools to do so, including the traditional law school ‘fictitious fact scenario’ problem-based approach, end of chapter exercises and responses, and mini-quizzes on the chapter contents.

This semester I have developed a two-step weekly assignment which has generated some lively in-class discussions based upon a genuine depth of understanding of the material among most students.

Students are required to read the week’s chapter of the text and a. Compose a tweet including the subject code #hashtag referring their peers to a recent case, news report or commentary on the topic; and b. Compose an analytical extension question, demonstrating they have understood the chapter readings and have posed a question worthy of class discussion during the lecture session. They are graded on the quality of the question, as outlined in the rubric below.

I spend a few moments arranging the students’ questions into themes and then pose them, leading class discussion in place of the traditional Powerpoint-driven slideshow lecture. The slides are there as a backup, of course, to return to key foundational learning points, but most time is spent debating the potential answers to the questions students have raised. Here are some examples from the semester’s crop thus far:

  • As social media continues to satisfy society’s appetite for news and court reporting, will judge-only trials become more commonplace to ensure justice is done?
  • Can technology ever replace the role of court reporters?
  • Why would anyone decide not to sue for defamation after they have been defamed?
  • Are there any changes proposed for defamation laws to focus more closely on social media, particularly trolls?
  • What matters most – closed courts in sex cases to fully protect the ID of the victim or open courts to protect open justice?

Every one of these questions shows the student has understood the topic and grappled with a dilemma arising from it. Each could be the subject of a research project in its own right.

Universities are meant to be about constructing, researching and attempting to resolve such deeper questions. This exercise rewards students who apply analytical skills to journalism and social media law topics, and elevates the subject above the ‘black letter law’ approach that was the hallmark of media law courses in the 20th century.

I offer you the rubric for the assignment below. Feel free to use it, critique it and adapt it. File any feedback below. Cheers.

JOUR12-230 Ethical and Legal Strategies for the Media  (2 copies needed at start of lecture – one for your reference and one to submit. Not accepted by email, sorry.)

Date and topic this week:

Name:  

Your tweet on this week’s topic. (Compulsory). Must include insightful comment and/or link to recent case or article on topic TWEET:

 

 

…#JOUR12-230 @journlaw

ANALYTICAL EXTENSION QUESTION criteria.

 

ANALYTICAL EXTENSION QUESTION:
Criterion Poor Fair Good Excellent
Understanding of chapter readings        
Important extension of inquiry BEYOND those readings        
Clear and simple question structure        
Other comments:

 

 

 

 

 

%

Example of EXCELLENT question on Defamation: “How has the High Court dealt with the political qualified privilege defence since the textbook was published in 2011?”

Example of POOR question on Defamation: “What is defamation and give an example?”

Example of defamation tweet:

#Defamation suit pits casino owner against creator of ‘Girls Gone Wild’ – bit.ly/OXX3bq #freespeech #JOUR12-230 @journlaw

© Mark Pearson 2012

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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