Is there such thing as too much ‘freedom of speech’?

For the final blog, I thought I should come full circle and go back to week one as I believe the topic ‘the history of the Internet’ underpinned the whole module. One of the subtopics discussed during week one was ‘freedom of speech’ which refers to the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental consequences. It is something we take for granted in the West as it is something that normally comes hand in hand with democracy and liberty.

Last year, in Saudi Arabia, a blogger called Raif Badawi received a 1,000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment sentence due to opening a website which encouraged fellow Saudis to discuss governmental reforms. He is meant to receive 50 lashes every Friday until the full sentence has been carried out. Global petitions such as by ‘Amnesty’ have delayed his lashes however have not helped overturn his sentence. His family have fled to Canada.

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It’s easy by looking at this case study to conclude that freedom of speech should be legalised everywhere but this is not true. You have to factor in the negatives.

Freedom of speech means that it is much easier to be exposed to dangerous ideas such as when individuals or terrorists groups promote dangerous activities online and encourage others to follow in their steps. This can lead to crimes, self-harm or terrorism.

It is easier to learn how to make a nuclear bomb, grow weed at home, make explosions or crystal meth. These instructions are not only on the ‘World Wide Web’ but are particularly found on the ‘Deep web’ (an alternative Internet which only discusses illegal activities). It was even rumoured that North Korea got their instructions on production of nuclear weapons from online.

It is also easier to promote unethical ideas such as racist, sexist, fascist and apartheid thoughts or to misuse the ‘freedom’ such as when a mischievous teenager may call an airport to create a bomb scare.

So the last thing I want to leave you with is this – do you think freedom of speech is entirely positive and should be embraced without a second thought? Why?

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Copyright and how the Grinch stole Christmas

This week I have chosen to write about ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss which was first published in 1957. It was first adapted into an animated television special in 1966 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Universal then bought the movie rights in 2000 as well as the domain name ‘grinched.com’. Even the word ‘Grinch’ is a registered trade-mark by the company Dr. Seuss Enterprises, who made $10 million just in 2005 alone. Universal had to pay the company 4% of the box-office gross as well as half the revenue from merchandise, and 70% of the income from book tie-ins! Lawyers from Dr. Seuss Enterprise even prevented a ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ themed party in Louisville in Kentucky in 2008.

In the United States, where this work originates from, the copyright law only permitted the work to be protected for 28 years and then to be renewed once for a further 28 years. That means ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ should have been allowed back into the public domain by the 1st January 2014 at the very latest. However at the last minute, Congress in the United States changed the terms of copyright and will keep this story (and other protected works) under copyright law for a further 40 years.

A creative commons license would ensure that the copyrighted material would be able to have free distribution. With this particular example, it is obvious that Dr. Seuss Enterprises would not allow this to happen due to how large the profits still are. I found percentages of revenue, as stated above, for the merchandise and movie, but could not find how much Universal had to pay to use Dr. Seuss’ ‘Grinch’ in their theme parks. The business needs the copyright to stay in tact since Dr. Seuss died in 1991 as to keep ensuring it is profitable (as to keep the company running).

As it is a classic for children, do you think it would be better if the work was put into the public domain? Or do you think it is better for the story to stay copyrighted, protecting his work despite his death?

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Online presence and professionalism

To guarantee privacy, I ensure that all my social media profiles are kept private. You can’t even come across my Facebook profile if you search for me on the Facebook search itself. Protective, I know.

The reason I ensure this is twofold. Firstly, there are certain people, or old ‘frenemies’, I do not want viewing my profile, photographs, contact details and personal information. Secondly, I am concerned for the future and potential employment prospects. I only accept ‘friend’, ‘connection’ and ‘follower’ requests from people I know as to retain control over content. Even on Facebook, I must approve of posts and photographs before they appear on my profile.

However I do have two exceptions.

The first exception is on LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn to network with potential future employers, get recommendations and endorsements from colleagues and to ensure my current networks are maintained. My profile has a lot of professional information on it, however still does not include any contact details. Instead, professionals may make contact via ‘connecting’ and then sending an inbox message.

The second exception is that I allow my name to appear on published articles. Prior to university, I spent some time working as a ‘Digital and Direct Marketer’ for the tech start-up ‘Shoprocket’, which is located on Google Campus. Shoprocket is a SaaS e-commerce start-up that offers an enterprise scale solution, integrating seamlessly into any existing application, all with a single line of code. During this time, I blogged on their website and on guest blogs.

In the meantime, press approached us as to write about the product. For example, Superbcrew, an online technological news site, interviewed me for the content of an article. The published article includes my name and a photograph.

Therefore I am concerned for my privacy online and limit information found online about me. When I worked in the press team of a council, we used to get calls such as when an underage student from a school is of interest to a journalist in a negative story. We would have to ensure that the student makes their social media profiles private quickly as to help protect them.

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Do you believe I am being overprotective? I am very particular about my online presence due to having my entire career ahead of me, since I am 21 years old. Do you think in 10 years, when hopefully I am in a stable job, I will still need to be as cautious? Why?

TripAdvisor

I’m going to talk about something we have all heard of and most probably all used at some point or other. The online community I have chosen is TripAdvisor, an American website which focuses content on travel. The website enables users to provide reviews about anything travel-related as well as having online forums. Many hotels or restaurants read their own reviews to ensure they improve their facilities.

The website, which was founded in 2000, has over 60 million users and 170 million reviews. TripAdvisor is used primarily by people to access reviews on places to visit around the world. The forums on the website, however, also enable users to ask questions in general about the country. For example, one thread states ‘I will be in Germany next month for a couple of weeks and would like to know the best and least expensive way to be able to call back to the US. How can I do this?’. Other users then suggested where to buy SIM cards and which carriers to use. The benefits of using TripAdvisor during the planning stages of taking a trip are endless. Many travellers use the website and the forum to select where to visit, which sites to see and where to stay or eat.

TripAdvisor ensures that all comments go through a verification process to detect fraudulent or suspicious activity. However this does not always prevent these kinds of comments from going through. It has emerged that some hotels and restaurants gave themselves good reviews in order to gain business. Other hotels have been condemned for bribing visitors to write positive reviews. The ASA (UK Advertising Standards Authority) ordered TripAdvisor to remove their slogan from their British site which previously read “reviews you can trust” due to these allegations. TripAdvisor, in the UK, then changed their slogan to “reviews from our community”.

Therefore despite TripAdvisor being extremely beneficial for travellers, caution should always be taken when reading reviews or forum threads as accuracy and honesty cannot always be guaranteed.

Have you used TripAdvisor before? When you use the website, do you personally take caution against the reviews? This is not something which always comes to mind when planning a trip.

 

Twitch and KSI

When I read this question, the first thing that came to mind was Twitch on the Xbox. For those of you who don’t own an Xbox 360 or an Xbox One, Twitch is an app which allows players to stream their gameplay online so that other viewers can watch it. Viewers (who have nothing else to do apparently) can then respond to this live play on ‘Twitch Chat’, which works pretty much like an online chat room on the side of the screen.

‘KSIOlajidebt’ (more commonly known as ‘KSI’) is one of the most popular streamers on Twitch. His Twitch account has over 318,000 followers who actively follow his broadcasts and write to him during gameplay. Viewers can also watch his broadcasts and take part in the conversation without subscribing to the account (making his figures amount to over 5.1 million). KSI also puts up some of his longer broadcasts onto his two YouTube channels which have a further total 16 million subscribers (one channel has 12 million, the HD version has 4 million).

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Viewers can say things like “bro, take a left here” or “dude, see what happens if you chuck a grenade to your right”. The broadcaster then does as he is asked as his aim is to entertain and to please the audience. The entire experience is shaped by his willingness to listen to his viewers and to basically, give them what they want. Where would KSI be without his followers?

And of course, in return, KSI gets paid through donations. Those who subscribe are generally the donors and therefore KSI is more likely to respond to their chat during gameplay or even give them a shout-out as a way of saying thank you.

Check out his channels as an example of Twitch herehere and here.

Viewers sometimes watch these programs simply to be part of the online community and to ‘take part’ but others can use it as to decide whether or not to purchase certain games as they get a good feel for what is involved in the gameplay.

On a more personal note, I don’t get the whole appeal. Watching someone open ‘Fifa packs’ for an hour is not my idea of entertainment. I would rather spend the time actually playing the games myself (I’m the sort of person who hates even waiting for my turn on single player games) but I do know many people who really love using Twitch.

Had you heard of Twitch before and do you think it sounds appealing? Would you give up your time to watch others play Xbox games and why?

 

The Independent goes digital

According to Doug’s lecture, technological convergence can be defined as “the digitisation of all media content”. So I asked myself, who is becoming more digital? The answer is almost everyone. But then I asked myself, who is becoming only digital? Then it hit me, the obvious example is The Independent.

If you are not already aware (it was released this week) – The Independent, who were established in 1986, are going to become the first British national newspaper to go completely online. It will be the bringing together of print press and the internet, as to create a solely digitalised online news source.

As media students, we are constantly asked to predict “what is going to happen to paid print news?” and well, we never come up with a single answer. But that’s okay, because even experts cannot agree to what the trend will be. Andrew Marr, this past Sunday, interviewed Amol Rajan (of The Independent), Jane Moore (of The Sun) and Simon Jenkins (of The Guardian) to discuss just that. The outcome? Well, even more disagreement.

Amol Rajan, The Independent’s editor stuck to the same story as his newspaper printed this week, stating that “the move [to online] will capitalise The Independent’s position as the fastest growing UK quality newspaper website, and will ensure a sustainable and profitable future”. They strongly believe that their online presence will go global, with current figures at a 33.3% increase in the last 12 months to just under 70 million unique users. Evgeny Lebedev, owner of The Independent, added: “The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers. They’re showing us that the future is digital”.

Well, we don’t quite know what the implications will be yet. However we can take a calculated guess, based upon expert opinions. We know that it is convenient to be able to get our news from online, but does that mean that the quality of the content is going to diminish as journalists are no longer going to be ‘on the ground’ and the news will have to be made available even quicker and thus more informal? Are journalists going to be less informed and thus less accurate? Does this mean that there will be an alienation of the elderly? Will media outlets suddenly go global online, rather than national in print? There is no correct answer yet but if the shift is inevitable for every newspaper (as Amol Rajan believes), it will change the entire media landscape.

And it’s not just the media landscape which is being affected. According to Amol Rajan, The Independent are going to create around 25 new jobs when they go online, but The Times revealed that in fact around 100 jobs are at risk due to the shift. 

What do you think? Will ‘going online’ be the inevitable trend for print news? And will that mean that the quality of the writing will depreciate?

Pew Research Center

No matter what I typed into Google around technology, news and society, the website ‘Pew Research Center’ just kept cropping up. Despite being an American online resource, the website offers an excellent insight into how the media affects the relationship between technology, news and young people worldwide.

It offers a wide range of reports including a report on ‘The state of privacy in America’, where it claims that “91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies”. The information in this report is particularly useful for weeks one, two and six.

Another example report is one titled ‘The evolving role of news on Twitter and Facebook’ which illustrates how many of these platform’s users resort to these two websites as their primary news source and why. It links to an article by ‘The New York Times’ titled ‘For Twitter, future means here and now’ which explains that Twitter’s best feature is providing “as-it-happens coverage and commentary on live events”. Another similar report on the website is titled ‘How social media is reshaping news’. These insights into social media platforms as news sites can of particular assistance in weeks four, eight and ten.

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I can’t write about each individual report but the website offers insights into almost everything in the media from campaigning, such as a report on ‘News coverage conveys strong momentum for same-sex marriage’ (useful for week ten), to activism such as ‘How Al-Jazeera tackled the crisis over Syria’ (also useful for week ten), to technology such as the ‘Future of the Internet’ (useful for week one).

The website is easy to use, with a large database of blogs, info-graphics, expert opinions, reports, graphs and analysis reports. The most important two tabs on the website for this module are ‘Media and News’ and ‘Internet and Tech’, although the information found under each are related.

Let me know what you think of the website. Do you think that it being American diminishes its usefulness for this course? Or do you believe that it represents all of Western society adequately?