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So, today’s big news is that Chris Mitchell, the editor-in-chief of The Australian, is going to sue journalism academic Julie Posetti for defamation over a twitter tweet in which she quoted a former The Australian journalist, Asa Walhquist, speaking at the Journalism Education Association Australia conference, as saying Mitchell had increasingly told her what to write with regard to environmental stories. Here’s the tweet in question:
Walhquist has reportedly denied that the Posetti quote is accurate, but it mustn’t be that hard to check with a conference full of journalists – surely someone was recording the conversation? Julie Posetti is a prolific twitter user and a journalism academic at the University of Canberra and I suspect she’d know a lot better than to misquote someone, even in a tweet. For the record, here’s a screenshot of the tweets surrounding the one that offended Mitchell:
Beyond the question of whether defamation has actually occured, the big story here is the recognition implicitly made by Chris Mitchell that commentary on Twitter is now a big deal!
Update: Andrew Dodd’s report covering the same talk in Crikey tells the same story and thus supports Posetti’s position.
Update 2 (Monday, 29 Nov 2010): An ABC story reports that audio recorded at the conference demonstrates that Posetti accurately quoted Walhquist in the contentious tweet! (You can follow developments via the #twitdef hashtag on Twitter. You can hear an mp3 recording here (on the ABC website).)
Update 3 (Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010): Jonathon Holmes has posted ‘140 characters of legal nightmare’ on The Drum at it’s well worth reading as it highlights some of the legal complications that come from Twitter, real-time ‘reporting’ and the challenges of context and the way contexts shift.
Links for September 23rd 2010 through September 30th 2010:
- Why I’m quitting Twitter [Jason Wilson – ABC The Drum Unleashed] – Jason Wilson’s decision to quit Twitter begs some interesting questions about academics in public debate: “My first reaction to the Grog’sgate story was disbelief and disgust, which I put out there as soon as it registered. There’s still some of that in my considered response, but it’s my professional role as someone whose research and teaching crosses over with the events of Grog’sgate to lead with considered analysis, not trail with it. Twitter encourages one (or me, at least) to vent immediate replies, which may not match, may even contradict a more disinterested evaluation. I’m not paid or qualified for minute-by-minute commentary, but for analysis and research. My personal opinions are my own, and they’re quite distinct from, and often incompatible with any professional conclusions I might draw. But I need to make that clearer by not issuing professional and personal messages from the same space. Since I’ve ruled out separate accounts, the whole thing needs to come to a halt.”
- Tweets in your media, media in your Tweets [Twitter Blog] – Twitter officially pushes symbiotic relationships w/other media: “While Twitter is about all types of information, the ways that the service fits into media have long been important to us, and increasingly, media makers are weaving Tweets into the very fabric of their content. Look at segments like Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Hashtags, where Tweets from viewers aren’t a gimmick; they’re great content. Look at sites like the Huffington Post, where Tweets underscore and amplify the headlines whenever there’s a big story brewing. Look at live shows like the VMAs, where Twitter came alive on a 95-foot-wide screen. Now, with the launch of the new Twitter, the ways that media fits into Twitter.com are just as important. Whenever there’s a new movie release, a TV show premiere, a big football game, or a breaking news story, people are talking about it on Twitter. With the new Twitter, they’re seeing glimpses of it, too, because photos and videos are now presented as part of the core Twitter experience.”
- Invasion of Privacy Charges After Death of Tyler Clementi [NYTimes.com] – A sad but timely reminder about the potential ramifications of not respecting people’s right to privacy: “It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet. And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide.”
- When traditional media exposes public service bloggers [eGov AU] – Craig Thomler has a reasonable snapshot of “#grogsgate” as the anonymous writer behind political blog Grog’s Gamut has his identity revealed in the daily national newspaper (he’s a public servant). Thomler points out that Grog broke no rules, followed the social media and commentary policies of his employment, and that the ‘outing’ seems pretty petty and unnecessary. It does, though, remind us that having separable online and ‘real’ identities is a harder and harder thing to do these days. Read the outing in The Australian, and Grog’s Response.
- French court convicts Google and its boss for defamation [WA Today] – Is an algorithm a defense? If not, most search engines, and social networks, have troubled legal water to navigate: “A Paris court has convicted US search engine giant Google and its chief executive Eric Schmidt of defamation over results from its “suggest” function, a French legal affairs website has revealed. The new function, which suggests options as you type in a word, brought up the words “rapist” and “satanist” when the plaintiff’s name was typed into the search engine, legalis.net reported. The court ordered Google to make a symbolic payment of one euro in damages and take measures to ensure they could be no repeat of the offence. […] A Google spokesman told AFP by email that they would be appealing the ruling. The statement said that the Google Suggest function simply reflected the most common terms used in the past with words entered, so it was not Google itself that was making the suggestions.
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