my bbc radio jersey appearance: citizen journalism

By on Sep 2, 2009 in BBC, blogging, blogging techniques, citizen journalism, internet libel, journalism, law |

I was on BBC Radio Jersey a couple weeks ago discussing citizen journalism and, in particular, whether bloggers should be allowed to cover government reviews and inquiries. Here's the audio of the interview as it was aired: Download and Listen to mp3

my slideshow from the press gazette media law conference

By on Jun 25, 2008 in BBC, citizen journalism, conferences/events, internet libel, journalism, law, online community, social software | 1 comment

I’ve uploaded my brief, scene setting presentation from the Press Gazette’s Media Law Conference held today in London: | View | Upload your...

video: behind the scenes at a leading moderation provider

By on Jun 25, 2008 in conferences/events, Data Protection Act, internet libel, journalism, law, online community, social software | 1 comment

This morning I had the pleasure of interviewing Dominic Sparkes*, Managing Director of Tempero, one of the leading online content and community moderation providers. Other UK based moderation providers include ChatModerators and eModeration Ltd. In the video, Dom provides insight into a rarely seen side of community moderation – what sorts of issues potential clients are worried about when they approach Tempero, the training provided to moderators, and things that site owners can do to make the lives of moderators easier: *Disclaimer: Dom and Jasmine Malik, the co-founders of Tempero, were colleagues of mine at Granada (now ITV). I consider them, as well as several of their employees, to be friends. I’ve also had a professional relationship with Tempero as well as ChatModerators and am friends with several people at eModeration Ltd. It’s a small...

press gazette media law conference

By on Jun 24, 2008 in BBC, conferences/events, internet libel, journalism, law, newspapers, online community, social software |

On Wednesday (25 June) I’ll be at the Press Gazette Media Law conference in London, delivering what will be my last conference presentation as a BBC person before I leave (on Friday) to join Headshift. I’m going to be speaking about the sort of risks – primarily, in this instance, legal risks – which arise when news and media organisations encourage or host audience discussion, content submissions and community. You may be surprised: I’ve come up with at least eleven different legal issues that online community managers and social media providers need to be aware of. I’m also going to discuss the different between moderation (policing) and hosting (facilitating), both of which, some solicitors believe, actually increase a website publisher’s exposure to liability for libel. I’ll get my slides up on slideshare as soon as I’ve got better bandwidth than I’m currently getting using a nokia n95 as a bluetooth modem whilst on a train in a 3g wilderness somewhere south of...

guardian readers’ editor on why some posts don’t allow comments

By on Oct 3, 2007 in blogging, blogging techniques, internet libel, journalism, law, newspapers, online community | 2 comments

The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, Siobhain Butterworth, has written an insightful post explaining why, in some circumstances, posts on Comment is Free don’t allow comments from readers. Online community managers will also find some sound advice here. Butterworth writes, "Last week… another piece on Cif discussed the relationship between the media and the police in the McCann case and in other criminal investigations – but it was closed for comment. A short note explained that this was for "legal reasons". Some readers felt this was not so much an explanation as a lofty way of saying either "we’re not going to tell you why" or "it’s too complicated for you to understand". Most people, including some journalists and many people who comment on blogs, don’t fully understand libel and other laws that restrict what they can and can’t say online. Publishers such as the Guardian choose to moderate the online discussions they host which, some solicitors feel, might actually increase rather than decrease their legal responsibility for the comments they allow to appear on their sites. The law, as Mumsnet recently discovered, is far from certain. Personally, I think it’s irresponsible for a website to offer users the ability to comment and discuss on site without at least offering on demand moderation (via "alert a moderator" links) of that content. I know that Butterworth agrees that the Guardian should take some responsibility for protecting it’s users by moderating. Sometimes, however, the risk of allowing comment just becomes too high. Butterworth explains: "At least 20 pieces involving the McCanns have appeared on Cif since Madeleine McCann went missing in May… Hundreds of comments were posted to a few articles in September, after the Portuguese police named the McCanns as formal suspects, with headache-inducing consequences for the moderators. Discussion threads on four pieces were closed, or closed early. The Guardian’s talk policy does not allow defamatory postings and the problem was that many of the deleted comments were no more than strong opinions weakly held – they had no basis in fact." If the defendant in a libel suit can prove that their comment is based upon an opinion honestly held, based upon fact and given without malice, for example a negative book review, then they will usually, although not always, be successful in using this defense. But determining what is and isn’t honestly held opinion, what is factually true, and whether a comment has been posted with or without malice is a tricky business. Butterworth says, "The moderators are not lawyers, or fact-checkers. They cannot give reasons to every user whose comments are deleted, though they try to do so when time permits. To put their task in perspective, on one Friday in September, more than 3,800 comments were posted on the Guardian website. The volume means that the moderators’ approach to enforcing the talk policy has to be broad brush. The McCann postings stretched the moderating resources too far, the moderators told me. They were concerned about the number of postings they were deleting and they were aware that people were frustrated. All things considered, a decision was made to close threads down. Roughly 1 in 5 of the postings to one piece were deleted and the decision to stop the discussion there was understandable, but I’m not persuaded that it was justified in the other cases…" Butterworth goes on to explain that, where difficult subjects are raised by a post, users should be warned in advance that the rules are likely to be strictly enforced and, of this advice is ignored, the discussion can and will be shut down. Anything else – that is, not allowing comments on a post just because people might break the rules of discussion rather than because people have broken them "puts the punishment before the crime." [Read Siobhain Butterworth’s Full...

my interview about internet libel on 5 live

By on Sep 25, 2007 in BBC, blogging, blogging techniques, internet libel, law |

The UK blogosphere continues to buzz about last week’s incident involving an Uzbek billionaire requesting that an ISP remove content which he felt was defamatory. Lastnight, I spoke about UK libel law and how it relates to content originators and hosts in an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pods and Blogs. The interview is available as part of this week’s Pods and Blogs...