Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of the week’s developing media news.
Media and Ferguson
Clashes have occurred over the rights of journalists covering the past weeks’ events in Ferguson Missouri as police attempt to restrict the movements and recordings of the press. These concerns continue despite compromises between the ACLU and local police to provide safe spaces for press coverage. Seventy-eight members of the press were arrested on Tuesday night, fueling concerns about the volume of media presence in Ferguson and prompting criticism that journalists are no longer “objective chroniclers of the proceedings.” Ferguson residents also seem torn–some appear to take issue with coverage while others rely on reporters to document the ongoing turmoil. People are not just looking to the news for information about Ferguson, they expect to see it on their social media feeds as well. Some users expressed outrage that Ferguson was not trending on their Facebook or Twitter pages. This issue comes down to personalization algorithms–what you see on your personal social media pages is directly influenced by the people in your network.
Various organizations have stepped up on social media to combat the spread of false information surrounding the Ebola epidemic. Distrust of Western news sources has led to collaborations with and initiatives spearheaded by African nationals, who are using Facebook and Twitter to fight the spread of misinformation and offer tips on hygiene and disease prevention.
Journalists in Ukraine are up in arms over a proposed new law that would grant the Ukrainian government power to censor media or business activity without a court order. Former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Viktoria Syumar said, “This will, unfortunately, lead to bad consequences. If we accept the formula that we can shut down anyone who dares to criticize the authorities, I’m sorry, but that will lead us into Russia.” The proposed law reflects a larger struggle between Ukraine and Russia regarding information dissemination, as Russia uses its news outlets to promote its power in Ukraine.
Turkish Prime Minister and President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has caused controversy with his decision to deny independent news outlets entrance to his party’s congress, a public event being held on August 27. Despite widespread criticism of the policy, which exclusively outlets critical of the Erdoğan government, the Prime Minister shows no sign of reversing his decision. This news follows the release of a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that found there was undue pressure from the government placed on the media that led to restricted criticism of Prime Minister Erdoğan. Erdoğan faced major criticism in March when the government blocked Twitter and YouTube.
Researchers from Harvard University and UC San Diego crafted hundreds of social media posts and created their own social network in order to understand how China censors its netizens. The result? It is acceptable to criticize the government online, as long as posts do not encourage people to take action. Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping has called for closer integration of traditional and new media forms in China, with commentators noting that “the mainstream media have become marginalized and have not been able to steer public opinion” and that, as a result, “it is not difficult to understand the intention of the top leaders.”