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How to be civil on social media

Recent election interference cases have put social media at the centre of attention. These events exposed the risks posed by actors manipulating political perceptions through disinformation or hate speech and spreading their messages using bots or political advertising. A key problem has been the little information we actually have about social media debates in elections.

The EU’s Guide for Civil Society on Monitoring Social Media During Elections, prepared by DRI, helps readers understand how these challenges are affecting democracies and sets out how to monitor these phenomena to create a better understanding and to make that discourse more transparent. The guide provides a framework to establish monitoring activities, how to produce evidence to help counter threats to democratic discourse and strategies to help shape better regulation.

Readers are guided through four strategic questions before beginning their monitoring activities – Which platform should be monitored? What is the ideal time span? Which topics and actors need to be monitored? Readers will also find practical information on how to access data, which tools to use and how to use data ethically. The guide includes analysis on how social media impact political discourse and what legal framework applies to social media platforms. Finally, readers will learn how and when to report findings in a way that will have the most impact.

This guide was developed by DRI’s Research Coordinator Rafael Goldzweig and Executive Director Michael Meyer-Resende, with the input of 20 experts from around the world under the “Supporting Democracy” programme, an EU-funded initiative. The analysis builds on DRI’s own experience with social media monitoring in Europe, Africa and Asia.

DRI is now building a hands-on digital toolkit to provide more support to social media monitors, with support from the Slovak NGO MEMO98. The toolkit will be published in 2020.

The guide is available in English, French and in Myanmar (Burmese):

For this news response, I read “In An Increasingly Polarized America, Is It Possible To Be Civil On Social Media?” by Jasmine Garsd. The article starts out by describing two wildly different men, Larry a conservative living on the East Coast, and Tyler who is a liberal living in Indiana. They have been constantly communicating on Twitter for the past few months, arguing about anything that comes to their mind, even settling for just name calling at certain points. Garsd brings up their relationship to highlight how people feel the need to be aggressive on social media. Larry and Tyler could’ve just blocked each other if they felt so insulted by each others posts, but they feel the need to continue this spiteful back and forth, trying to prove to each other and Twitter that they are the most right. The fighting is something that brings them pleasure and serves a purpose in their lives. Although, Tyler does bring up how the online arguments take a toll on his real life, to the point where he even has panic attacks because he is thinking about the conversation he had, he has not quit Twitter and still chooses to actively engage in the behavior.

Garsd brings up how there has been a growing amount of research showing how social media has addictive qualities, just like a drug or gambling. The feelings with being addicted parallel the anxiety and pleasure that both Tyler and Larry have with their social media use. Twitter is especially interesting because it is a public platform, which increases users who want or need a chance to show off. In light of the conversation we had last week about gamification in our daily lives, specifically with social media platforms and the gamification of likes I further could analyze Twitter through this article. Gamification is prevalent in all of our social media including Twitter, which has a virtual group of followers that vote based on retweets and favorites how good or funny one’s thoughts are. The anonymity factor and the conversation that happens through retweets and comment threads add to the game-like and social aspect. It is similar to a multiplayer role-playing game, only instead of fighting or casting spells one is arguing online. Whoever has the wittier comeback or clapback is seen as winning the game. This could further explain why some people act as “trolls” online.

Social media allows us “to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others,” says this Princeton professor.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

How to Be Civil on Social Media

    June 18, 2020

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.

Omar Wasow is steeped in both social media and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And he marvels at how the two have melded in the current demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

Wasow, a professor at Princeton University and co-founder of the pioneering social network BlackPlanet.com, said social media was helping publicize police brutality and galvanizing public support for protesters’ goals — a role that his research found conventional media played a half century ago. And he said he believed that the internet was making it easier to organize social movements today, for good and for ill.

Here are excerpts from our conversation.

How has social media changed, or not, civil rights protests today compared with the 1960s?

The 1960s civil rights leaders figured out that images in national media that showed the brutality of Jim Crow forced an often indifferent white America to take seriously the concerns of black citizens.

There’s a through line today. The video of George Floyd taken by Darnella Frazier is an echo of the bearing witness of the beating of Rodney King, and before that the images of Bloody Sunday in Selma [in 1965]. Part of what social media does is allow us to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others. As those injustices become visible, meaningful change follows.

But racial inequality or police brutality didn’t end with Selma or Rodney King. Does the internet change that?

It’s obviously depressing how often excess force by police against African-Americans resulted in protest movements that didn’t ultimately fix the problem. But after Selma, public opinion on concerns for civil rights spiked dramatically. The Voting Rights Act was passed in five months.

The legal scholar Thomas Stoddard talked about cultural shifts leading to durable social change. I think you’re seeing that now with broad public support for the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Are there ways in which meaningful protests are harder now?

Social media radically simplified organizing and coordinating large groups. The downside is there isn’t a deep well of trust among demonstrators, as there was among people who did the first sit-ins of lunch counters and all knew each other.

But if one way this movement has an impact is by having weaker ties but with broad reach, that is OK in some cases. And social media is enabling new kinds of protests. My wife has been doing activism around a chronic health issue, and many of those people are bed bound. Organizing online has been a way to raise consciousness and call attention to the health system’s failures.

Are there lessons from the social networks you ran 20-plus years ago to make today’s online hangouts healthier for the world?

When we launched what used to be called a bulletin board service in the 1990s, our slogan was “the mix is the message.” We were trying to get the variety of New Yorkers to talk to each other. Today there are places online where people can find others like them, and that’s good. But I wonder if there’s also more that could be done on sites like Facebook and Twitter to bring people together rather than sorting them into camps.

A middle ground for Apple’s app wars

Any app maker that wants to sell a video game, a digital subscription or most other virtual goods in an iPhone app has a binary choice: Make people pay with Apple’s payment system and share revenue with Apple, or don’t allow any purchases at all in the app.

A lot of app makers chafe at this choice. It’s why you can’t buy a subscription to Spotify or Netflix from those companies’ iPhone apps. Spotify and Netflix refuse to give Apple a cut of sales, and Apple’s rules mean there’s no alternative.

I understand both sides here. Apple wants to be paid for keeping its app store appealing and safe. App makers say they feel it’s unfair to hand over a chunk of their hard-won sales in perpetuity.

But the status quo does more harm than good. It’s annoying to iPhone users, makes developers angry and risks getting Apple in trouble with regulators.

How about a middle ground: Give people multiple ways to pay.

What if people had the choice to pay for things in iPhone apps with either their Apple account or another payment method of the app maker’s choosing?

It would be easier for you to buy a Netflix subscription in the iPhone app with your fingerprint or face scan connected to your Apple account. If you do that, then Apple would get to take a slice of Netflix’s sales.

But Netflix could also let you create a new account and hand over your credit card details to Netflix. In that case, Netflix would keep all the money. This is similar to the approach on Android, where app makers have the option to let people pay them directly and not share revenue with Google.

This split-the-baby approach might not end all the fights about what Apple allows in its apps. I bet it would resolve a lot of disputes, though, and it would make many apps a bit less confusing for all of us.

Before we go …

What a mess: My New York Times colleagues looked into England’s system of humans and technology for tracking down people who had been exposed to the coronavirus. The results so far have not been promising, with some virus hunters filling their days with internet exercise classes and a government virus-tracking app hampered by fears about technical glitches and data breaches.

Soon every tech company will have a coronavirus-fighting product to sell: Verily, a Google sister company, is introducing an employee virus testing and health analysis service for businesses, my colleague Natasha Singer writes. She points out that many tech companies are now pitching products that promise to help businesses function safely during the pandemic. Some of these offerings may be ineffective or creepy — or both.

Yes to the Marie Kondo test for technology: A researcher of “smart cities” advocates for banning technologies that contribute to the perpetual surveillance of citizens, including facial recognition, ubiquitous cameras and predictive software. “Think of it as Marie Kondo, but for technology. Does this thing contribute to human well-being and/or social welfare? If not, toss it away!” he writes in OneZero.

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How to Be Civil on Social Media

Most people would agree that networking is an essential element to building a business or growing your career. Social media is continually changing the landscape of what it looks like to network and build professional relationships, but the rules of engagement can be pretty subjective sometimes.

Posting unbecoming photos from last night’s party or a string of rants aren’t a good idea for several reasons, but you especially don’t want something like that to be the reason you’re passed up for your dream job.

Your social profiles are an online extension of your in-person behavior and reputation. Understanding social media etiquette and how it affects the ways others interact with you isn’t something to write off. The way we communicate online should reflect how we would interact face to face with someone – the screen that separates you from the real people behind all those social profiles isn’t a filter or a mask, when you’re using it to genuinely connect with people.

The original purpose of social media was to be social – to make connections. We aren’t limited to words anymore with online socializing, though, like in the chat rooms of old. Now, the way we share media also reflects our thoughts, ideas and personalities, and there is so much of it to wade through that the original intent of making connections often gets lost in translation.

“Navigating social media is just another chance to form bonds with people by being respectful, helpful, engaging and authentic.”

Let’s look at how each of those descriptive words Grace uses can help us apply social media etiquette in a way that turns simple connections into valuable relationships.

Be Respectful

We’ve become so good at sharing strong opinions in social posts and comments. Unfortunately, we’ve been less good at considering others’ perspectives, thinking before commenting, and letting someone else have the last word.

With a lack of body language and tone of voice to interpret in online communication, it’s always wise to give someone the benefit of the doubt if you’re not sure what they’re trying to say, or what their intentions are behind saying it.

“Think twice before you post anything, and think a couple more times before you respond to anything negative.”

Part of improving how you communicate is developing your emotional intelligence. This means understanding yourself and how to interact with others to build more meaningful relationships.

A key component to EQ is managing your reactions. There is a big difference between a reaction and a response.

To have more valuable and constructive communication online, the importance of taking time to think through a respectful response cannot be stressed enough. Pay attention to the tone of your words. If you’re having a discussion and worried that your response will be misinterpreted, ask a question at the end, like “What do you think?” or “Does that make sense?” This will help them see that you’re truly interested in a discussion, rather than just stating your opinion.

Be Helpful

A social media etiquette question often raised is whether it’s okay to unfriend or unfollow someone who you’ve met in person, but whose social sharing habits aren’t helpful or constructive in any way. The short answer: yes.

If someone is in the habit of consistently posting things that don’t help foster connections or offer something of value, then it’s not necessary for you to stay connected with them on social networks out of guilt or fear that they’ll be offended. If they notice that you’ve disconnected with them, Lizzie Post suggests being honest and telling them that you simply weren’t connecting online. If they’ve asked you to explain, they should be ready for an honest answer.

Take a look at your own posting habits to gauge whether you’re using social media to help build relationships and share valuable content, or if others would be better off not seeing your posts in their feed.

Be Engaging

The benefit of social media is to engage with others when you aren’t able to do that in person. As I’ve said before, it’s all about connecting. By all means, show your personality through your profile, but make sure your posts actually help you connect with others.

According to Real Simple readers, these are the five most annoying types of posts:

  • Intentionally vague posts
  • Chronic complaining
  • Meaningless calls to action
  • Oversharing
  • Posting too frequently

Posting habits that include those five will not help anyone connect on social media. In fact, they have the opposite effect. These posts aren’t engaging and they are likely to cause others to unfollow or unfriend you, or at least hide your posts from their feed.

Keep in mind that not everything is meant to be shared on social media. There are times when it’s better to reach out to someone individually if you need or want to discuss something. Ask yourself before posting whether this question or discussion really needs to take place on a public social network.

Be Authentic

There is a reason some people choose to disconnect from social media for a period of time. It’s easy to become so immersed in online communication that we forget how to be fully engaged with the physical world around us.

It’s also easy to use social media as a mask, and that is an exhausting way to live.

If you really want to make connections with people online and build relationships with them, don’t do them the disservice of presenting yourself as someone you’re not. They know you’re human. They know you don’t always look runway ready, and your family isn’t always the epitome of class, and your job isn’t a dream every second of every day. So don’t be afraid to be a real person.

The idea that social media has evolved for purposes beyond social use is an understatement. While posts featuring evening sunsets, birthday celebrations, and (unsolicited) selfies are still applauded, the power of social media has long surpassed its original objective. Social media is now largely used in business to market products, promote brands, and connect to current customers.

On a greater scheme, social media has been used as a weapon to spread causes for social struggles of freedom, justice, and equality. Civil rights movements have capitalized social media’s influence, making cause’s values and ideas unavoidable to everyday users. In recent years, movements including the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and the Human Rights Campaign have all been leaders in multiplying supporters through social networking. (You can also read our cover story on Jerome Jarre and how he’s using social media to redirect millions of marketing dollars to help humanity.)

On the night of the recent presidential election, Nov. 8, 2016, Teresa Shook, resident of a small Hawaiian island, took to Facebook expressing her concerns for the future of gender equality under the country’s new administration. That’s when she catalyzed an uproar for the Women’s March on Washington. It started with a Facebook event invite.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

Women’s March on NYC by Jason Leiva

Shook’s initial Facebook event included the 40 of her friends of which she personally invited. When Shook woke up the following morning, she was shocked to see that 10,000 strangers had RSVP’ed to the event with 10,000 more expressing interest.

In total, her 40 Facebook invites sparked a whopping 500,000 men and women to march in D.C and 600 subsequent marches throughout the rest of the country in weeks to follow.

Shook, a grandmother who is in her 60s, told the Washington Post, “I guess in my heart of hearts I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t really think it would’ve ever gone viral.” Shook continued: “I don’t even know how to go viral.”

On the day of the Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 21, Shook made an on-stage appearance addressing the hundreds of thousands of who took to the streets of D.C.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy. A negative has been turned into a positive. All these people coming together to unite to try and make a difference. That’s what we’re going to be doing for the next four years. I see it’s really going to happen,” Shook said in an interview the day of the march.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

Women’s March on NYC by Jason Leiva

While Shook’s use of social media sparked the event itself, the greater power of social networking didn’t end there. The official Women’s March Organization promoted partakers in the March on Washington and marches around the country to post the hashtag #WhyIMarch on their Twitter and Instagram accounts. The #WhyIMarch hashtag makes marches searchable to users, encouraging further awareness for those unable to attend the march.

Black Lives Matter has also utilized social media as a key instrument in their organizations efforts to gain awareness and momentum.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center called “Social Media Conversations About Race,” was performed to analyze how and why social media users use the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter within their posts. For some users, the hashtag serves the purpose of the cause. For others, the hashtags have been used to do just the opposite.

According to the study, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used roughly 12 million times on Twitter from July 12, 2013 to March 31, 2016. Researchers found that while 38 pecent of #BlackLivesMatter tweets were in support of the movement, 11 percent of tweets compiled of opposition. In addition, the 51 percent of tweets including the hashtag were sorted as neutral references to #BlackLivesMatter, general racial issues separate from the specific movement, and the 2016 election.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

While social media has proven to be positive for social rights movements, the study shows the harsh reality of how users largely take advantage of social networking to damage social struggles for equality.

To target such users, the Guardian reports that in recent years, civil rights groups have sought out executives at companies like Twitter and Facebook to moderate abusive users. However, as reported, moderation systems by such companies are largely viewed as being “racially biased.” Civil rights groups argue that data shows how Facebook specifically censors activists of color and Black Lives Matter posts, but ignores posts of white supremacists spreading violent threats.

“Despite obstacles to improve the supervising of social networking sites, without doubt, social media has progressed development of social freedom and equality, and will continue to do so.”

In effort to work with social networking companies to improve company moderation systems, 70 civil rights organizations collaborated in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and director of Facebook’s global policy Joel Kaplan. The letter urged Facebook to not only stop censoring political speech for social justice, but also for the company to take further and larger steps at targeting offensive users.

Black Lives Matter has argued that although Facebook most certainly has the means to address these problems, the capable company has yet to make the issue of primary concern.

Despite obstacles to improve the supervising of social networking sites, without doubt, social media has progressed development of social freedom and equality, and will continue to do so. With the direction of our country’s growing social and political awareness, whether or not you enjoy seeing social rights movements across your news feeds, it’s doubtful that such stories can be avoided.

No matter if you enjoy seeing social struggles for freedom and equality broadcasted on your news feeds, it’s undeniable that social media’s growing influence on such causes is an incredible outcome from where social networking once started.

This election season has been ugly enough to turn off even the most avid political junkie and few people will be sad to see it end. Social media has become ground zero of the ugliness, as research has shown that social media often amplifies the political negativity that already exists. Students of psychology will be unsurprised by this as it is a consistent finding that negative information tends to be more powerful than positive information. You are more likely to click or donate when an ad tells you how dire a situation is, and so we get ever more social media stories designed to get us to click on their ever more negative and sensational headlines. And as the algorithms learn that we tend to click on negative stories, we get more of what we click on, leading to a death spiral where our social media feeds are full of the latest political attacks, strangely interspersed with intermittent photos of our friends’ children.

None of us likes this, but there is one thing we can do about it – consciously changing the composition of our social media feeds and by extension, that of our friends, in order to create a more civil Facebook feed. In the context of this election, it was natural for all of us (me included) to share negative information about the other candidate, in order to achieve our competitive goal. But after this election, we should take the candidates’ words – that this election is about us and not them – to heart, and focus on the goals we all want to see pass, if only to reduce the acrimony that has made reading social media so dreary for months.

How to Be Civil on Social MediaAccordingly, CivilPolitics is going to start a new initiative after the election where we post articles about liberals and conservatives working together for the common good. These stories are not sensational enough to get clicks nor are they likely to lead to donations, so they tend to be under-represented on social media. By spending our time and money (in the form of social media promotion) on spreading such messages, we will not only help re-train the algorithms of those who choose to help spread these messages, but will also help create an “extended contact effect” where simply knowing that members of opposing groups are working together will help reduce the tensions this election created. This isn’t something we can do alone, so we are going to explicitly ask you to re-share these messages (sharing retrains Facebook’s algorithms much more than clicking or liking) with your community, in the hopes we can create a more civil social media experience for us all.

Click here to see our Facebook page and please do share any articles that you think would resonate with your community. Every little bit helps not only reduce polarization for your friends, but train Facebook’s algorithms that positive information is something worth spreading.

Social media content as court evidence.

Most of us think of social media platforms as a trumpet for our thoughts. We share our woes, ups and downs, and oftentimes even throw in a few strong opinions on different matters. Whether we do so in the open – transmitting our rants to hundreds of eager listeners – or in private chat threads, we should clearly understand the consequences of our actions.

“Sharing a public rant about your ex-spouse or former employer online may not seem problematic – a lot of people do that to get support and some cheering,” said Sherwin Arzani, attorney at Citywide Law Group . “However, you should remember that social media is evidence and discoverable. Depending on the situation, your opinions can either hurt and help your court case.”

Your social media posts can be used as evidence against you

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Courts today are more than willing to admit social media content as a form of evidence both for and against you.

For example, in a recent personal injury lawsuit, Largent v. Reed , the plaintiff claimed that a recent accident had left her with severe physical and mental pain. During the course of the litigation, defendants presented the court with that person’s post-accident photos posted to her Facebook account. These photos demonstrated plaintiff was clearly feeling well enough to engage in her daily activities, attend the gym, and otherwise thoroughly enjoy life. Presented with this information, the court ordered plaintiff to hand over her Facebook login information for further inspection.

If there’s a lesson to take away from this story it should be this: never assume that anything you share online (publicly or in private messages) is fully confidential.

“If you are involved in any case or proceeding, or even a case or proceeding that is reasonably foreseeable, think twice before posting anything that can be self-incriminating or used against you in the courtroom,” said Joseph Fantini, attorney at Rosen Injury Lawyers .

On the other hand, you should also carefully document all the digital communication you have had with another party up-to-date and be forthcoming about it if you want to maximize the success of your settlement .

Public social media posts do not count as illegally obtained evidence

Contrary to popular belief, it is legal to use communications garnered from social media sites as evidence. Judge Michael Corriero explains that “the prohibition against using illegally obtained evidence applies primarily, essentially solely, to law enforcement. It doesn’t apply to another civilian.” So if you have exchanged self-incriminating messages with someone privately – e.g. through a messenger app – those would be admitted by most Western hemisphere courts without any issue. For example, in 2015 Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court in the UK admitted 143 messages dispatched via WhatsApp as evidence in a civil case.

According to Ambrosio Rodriguez, a criminal defense attorney at The Rodriguez Law Group , the same applies to photographs, taken and published by you or someone else. “If a friend takes and publishes a controversial picture showing you drunk in public you may act against them for unfairly depicting you as drunk. But if you were actually drinking at that time, these photos will be used as evidence against you in a relevant proceeding,” he explained.

Trying to delete your social media content isn’t wise during trials

“When you are involved in a lawsuit (whether as a plaintiff or defendant), the rules of evidence apply to your social media content just as they do to the discoverability and admissibility of other forms of evidence,” said Ryan Van Steenis , an attorney at Ajamie LLP, in Houston, Texas. “It is not advisable to try to delete the content you have shared online. Depending on the circumstances, such activity can be considered serious. For example, a court may find that a negative inference should be held against you for the destruction or spoliation of relevant evidence. Obviously, this can have adverse consequences to your case, and attorneys representing clients with social media properties, in other words, every lawyer in this day and age, should advise their clients how to manage their social media content accordingly. A client is permitted to adjust their privacy settings, but do not take any further actions that the court may deem as suspicious.”

Furthermore, you should not expect the encryption technology used by most modern messaging apps to prevent others from accessing your content. Even “permanently” deleted content can be recovered using new-gen forensic recovery methods.

For example, in a February 2016 court case in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the FBI wanted Apple’s help to unlock an iPhone 5C it recovered from a terrorist suspect. The phone was locked with a four-digit password and set to eliminate all its data after ten failed password attempts. Apple declined the request but a day before the scheduled court hearing, the FBI said they had found a third party able to assist in unlocking the iPhone. They later announced that they had unlocked it.

Even if your personal device is password protected, it does not mean that the authorities cannot legally get access to it. Suspects and parties undertaking a trial can be served with a disclosure notice demanding them to reveal all passwords. Failure to comply can lead to further penalties.

Everything you share on social media can become part of the public record – whether you want it or not. So use these tips to stay safe:

  1. Be a selective sharer. Always stay on the safe side and don’t share anything that you would not otherwise tell freely in public.
  2. Consider using one of the best VPN services available. This helps keep your online activities protected against snooping, interference and censorship, according to TechNadu.
  3. Be careful where you click. Risky apps and dangerous links sent via social media can give hackers access to spy on you, according to CBS News . Also, don’t respond to messages from strangers.

Is social media uniting us as a country or dividing us? Is it encouraging our difference in opinion or making us choose sides? Last week for my blog post I talked about what civil discourse is exactly and how it is a civic issue. This week, I will be talking about the role social media has on the civil discourse present in the United States and to what extent these applications are running our daily lives.

Social media has been on the rise since the original blogging website was created back in 2003 known as MySpace. This instantly connected you to your friends whether they be near or far and gave you an outlet to post pictures. MySpace then faded out and Facebook faded in. This website then created other sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Vine, LinkedIn, along with numerous other sites that allowed people from all over the world to communicate. At first, the introduction of these sites were life changing. People were able to reconnect with old friends who had moved away and with family members who did not share a house with them. It was revolutionary to be able to communicate with your loved ones, until people started using these outlets to rant instead of their intended purpose which was to bring people together.

By switching from oral and written communication to that of cyberspace has not been the easiest process. See, with the introduction of these websites has introduced something that has also “generate(d) significant challenges for institutional policies and practices to encourage and sustain civil discourse for the critical social and personal issues” we face as a society as said in the intro blog to the review of this pressing issue as conducted by Reynol Junco and Arthur W. Chickering. By investigating into this, even though this research was conducted seven years ago, things were flagged by the beginning. At this point, people were beginning to use their right to free speech to every outlet possible in order to be heard. With this, came the introduction of hashtags where within a “trending” topic, people could talk about what they believed to be correct and connect with others who had the same mindset.

However, there are always two sides of the spectrum when people felt wronged by new legislation or an executive order, they took their opinions online. People began to fill up Facebook and Twitter feeds with their judgements on what they thought was right. This can easily be illustrated by the statistic found in a survey referenced by an International Business Times article which “…showed that 34 percent of Americans believe social media has had an overall negative effect on the quality of news and information on the Internet, compared with just 17 percent who believe it’s had a positive effect” (Zara 2). This article was written in December, 2012 which was just over four years ago, and it has only gotten worse since then. People are not afraid to voice their opinions over the web because there seem to be no immediate or real world consequences. This has encouraged people to be civic and exercise their right to free speech, but it’s caused more harm than good by means of offending others by ranking their opinions superior and not acknowledging the power in diversity.

This mindset has brought people to voice their opinions, yet not be respectful of other people’s on the same issue. In order for this conflIct to be resolved we must be willing to work together and unite despite our differences, instead of solely focusing on our differences and using that as an excuse as to why we remain divided. I’m not saying don’t voice your opinion on social media, I’m saying do it, but do it in a respectful manner. According to Lee Burdette Williams, the issue of “[c]yber-harassment is not a new phenomenon, [yet] increasingly ugly examples appear every day“ which was written in 2014, yet is still true today (William 2). Go be civic and exercise your right to free speech, but do it in a way that proves this statement wrong, bring people together rather than pull them apart.

As always, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this. This little issue has the power to be skimmed over in the grand scheme of things, but we must choose to unite, not fight over it. Thank you, hope you have a great weekend!

Junco, Reynol, and Arthur W. Chickering. “Civil Discourse in the Age of Social Media.” Social Media in Higher Education . N.p., 31 Oct. 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. .

Williams, Lee Burdette. “Inside Higher Ed.” Social Media Threatens Civil Discourse between Administrators and Students (essay) . N.p., 20 June 2014. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. .

Zara, Christopher. “Is Twitter Making Us Meaner? Uncivil Discourse In The Age Of Social Media.” International Business Times . N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2017. .

5 thoughts on “Civil Discourse and Social Media: Not the Best Combination”

Part of the problem is social media has given people a feeling their opinion is superior through the amounts of shares on FB or likes on Twitter… Honestly it’s pretty redicilious people get so offended over something they read on a social media site, but I guess that is just how our generation is now. Sad.

Great post! In my opinion, social media only highlights the lack of education among American citizens, dividing the county even more.For example today I saw a tweet, picturing a group of girls, wearing trump shirts- with the caption “America Day” and a flag… expect it was not EVEN THE american flag; it was another red white and blue flag. This tweet has gone viral. But is that what we should really be retweeting? We are only highlighting our own stupidity.

Until next week

Social media has definitely become a huge part of how we interact and share our ideas and beliefs with many people at once over both large and small issues. Most people take what is being said on social media much more seriously than it is intended to be taken, and this is where problems and conflicts arise. Social media should be a vehicle for people to voice whatever opinion they want.

Social media makes it really easy for people to ignore everyone who disagrees with them — on Facebook or Twitter you can find a group with a similar set of beliefs and unfriend everyone else, so that you only have to hear from people who will confirm your opinions. You can even do that by accident, just by unsubscribing from sites that annoy you. That’s probably a major problem for civic discourse, because it prevents us from debating anything. People who disagree don’t even talk to each other.

Where do you think the line is between being respectful about your opinion and sharing it freely? I think this is an interesting topic, because I think most people subscribe to their opinions because they believe that they are the most superior opinions. So I would not necessarily hold it against them for speaking of their opinion as though they believe it, but explicitly disrespecting someone else is a different issue I think.

ARTICLES Social media, meet social good

How to Be Civil on Social Media

Joy is the Senior Futures Specialist at Forum for the Future, with over 10 years experience practising Futures with a sustainability and systems lens. Prior to this, Joy worked at the pioneering solar power company solarcentury.

We seem to be at a point where the relationship between civil society and the internet – particularly social media and algorithms – is becoming extremely double-edged. While the huge enabling power of social media has long been recognised and used by campaigners and grassroots movements to effect change – most dramatically illustrated right now by #MeToo – the last eighteen months have also seen a powerful shadow side emerge as algorithms have gained in potency.

I find it useful to think of this in terms of three aspects:

Mass manipulation

The first aspect relates to the manipulation of individuals at mass scale. Tech companies like Facebook have been accused of purposefully creating addictive products , and former tech insiders have admitted that behavioural techniques are used by algorithms to keep users hooked, as platforms vie for attention. Unfortunately, these techniques rely on stoking negative emotions such as fear and resentment to engage users (as they are more efficient to generate than positive ones) and there are emerging signs that as algorithms become more powerful, the underlying structure of social media may be biased towards favouring more polarisation and negativity – offering more opportunity to those who seek to divide and destroy rather than those trying to unify and build bridges. There is even the risk that positive civil society campaigns will increasingly be overwhelmed by the negative backlashes that they generate. (For a more in depth discussion of this aspect see this interview with Jaron Lanier .)

The second aspect relates to the power dynamics that are emerging as our world becomes more networked and virtualised. The network effects that reshaped the music industry, publishing, taxis and hotels are reaching deeper into our lives now as we become more connected and generate more data. These effects push power upwards – to large digital platforms, their owners and those able to harness them – and downwards (to a lesser extent) to the individuals that use them. The middle ground –where many traditional institutions lie – gets hollowed out.

There are signs that this dynamic may be starting to affect civil society, with unpredictable consequences. There is positive potential for much more participatory processes – but also the risk that the first aspect discussed – the bias favouring negative manipulation – will cause damage to our social fabric if it is not tackled. And many of our current civil society institutions lie in the middle ground, the area at risk. There is also a growing accountability problem as this dynamic strengthens the big tech platforms further.

Data dangers

The third aspect connects to the first two and relates to the vast quantity of data we all now generate and give away, which is used to train the AI algorithms that are currently reshaping our world, manipulating our choices and in some respects abolishing privacy. In authoritarian countries, this dynamic is strengthening the reach and power of government. A case in point is the extraordinary Social Credit panopticon planned by the Chinese government, where every individual will have a trustworthiness rating that takes into account everything from political activity to jaywalking. In Western countries, this dynamic is market-based, but risks having a similar outcome for individuals , of being tyrannised into conformity by our ratings.

Shaping the future?

In short, the structural underpinnings of our shared social world are changing fast, in unexpected and often quite unwelcome ways. However despite the bleakness of this shadow side, its dominance is not inevitable, and there is much that can be done.

For example, the negative bias of social media isn’t set in stone — it’s an emergent property that can be changed by altering incentives within the system. We could rethink the framework around ownership of personal data. Even the problematic power dynamics can be mitigated by recognising the big tech companies as utilities and regulating them accordingly.

And there are many other possible solutions.

We urgently need to regain the enabling, connecting, empowering capability of the digital revolution. Civil society has a key role in responding to this challenge. We need to make sure that we can shape the way in which we are able to participate in public spaces — and this is as true of Twitter as our town squares.

Swara Bhasker shared that “social media is a virtual public sphere and like other public spaces we should have a civil conduct on social media.”

Known for speaking her mind, actress Swara Bhasker, who has often been a victim of trolling and online bullying, says like any other public sphere, social media should also have a civil conduct.

Asked if social media bullying bothers her, Swara told IANS here: “It used to bother me in the beginning when it happened and I felt very hurt. I felt it was very unjust… Then I realised life is unjust. They are not doing it out of a sense of justice, but doing it from a place of viciousness, hatred. So what would you do about that? They have no identity. I became inured to it.”

Swara added that “social media is a virtual public sphere and like other public spaces we should have a civil conduct on social media. It is a virtual public space”.

The 30-year-old made her debut in filmdom in 2010 with Madholal Keep Walking. She was then seen in Raanjhanaa, Tanu Weds Manu, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Nil Battey Sannata, Anaarkali of Aarah, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Veere Di Wedding.

Talking about the kind of work she wants to do now, Swara said: “I am at a strange point… because after ‘Nil Battey Sannata’, ‘Anarkali’ and ‘Veere Di Wedding’, I am like ‘What should my next script be?’ I don’t know how to up that because I feel the standards have become too high for scripts. I have not signed a film after ‘Veere Di Wedding’.”

Over her nine-year-journey in Bollywood, Swara has essayed relatable characters like Chanda from Nil Battey Sannata or Bindiya from Raanjhanaa.

“I have been very lucky also with the kind of roles I have been given or that I have landed even if they have been in the supporting category or protagonist roles…. I can’t control what I am offered but I can control what I choose. So, I am very careful of what I choose.”

The actress said she is “dying” to do the movies based on dancing around the trees “but now the dancing around the trees in Switzerland is not happening. So, I feel like I am 20 years late in the industry”.

Do you aspire to do something more?

“There is a lot of stuff I still want to do and I hope that I am able to do that in whatever I do next. I think as an artiste, you can never be satisfied because satisfaction means the beginning of the death of an actor. I don’t want to be satisfied. I hope that my ambition always stays unsatiated,” she added.

Swara, who featured in web series It’s Not That Simple, said: “I am doing very interesting work in the web space. I am very excited. I think the web space is a new space. It’s offering a lot of exciting and new work and I am holding on to my time for films because I want the next one to be very special.”

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The Government Digital Service has published a guide for civil servants to advise them on how to use social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

The Government Digital Service, part of the Cabinet Office, has published a guide for civil servants to advise them on how to use social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

In the same report the Home Office also provided guidance for civil servants working in IT on how to overcome the technical barriers to accessing the internet and social media.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude (pictured) said the government must use new technologies such as social media if it is to improve service delivery to citizens.

“Active engagement with social media encourages different ways of working and opens up the opportunity of flatter organisations when communication and knowledge transfer happen in real-time,” he said in the report’s introduction.

He added that if civil servants communicate with the public directly they can get a better understanding of needs and concerns.

But “social media must be used responsibly and only when it enhances the core work of civil servants,” said Maude.

Part one of the report, Guidance on the use of social media, puts the guidelines for civil service use into six principles:

  • Communicate with citizens in the places they already are;
  • Use social media to consult and engage;
  • Use social media to be more transparent and accountable;
  • Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings;
  • Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation;
  • Adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline).

Part two, Guidance on overcoming the technical barriers to accessing the internet and social media, advices IT staff how to provide the necessary technical infrastructure, platforms and software to enable access to the internet and social media channels.

Aimed at CIOs, CTOs and other IT professionals, the guidance outlines challenges in relation to: legacy web browsers; the lack of a clear and up-to-date understanding of the risks, benefits and costs; alternatives to preventing all usage; and existing contractual arrangements.

Head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake, himself an avid user of Twitter, also wrote on a blog post that he wants to see Whitehall mandarins making much better use of social media to engage the public.

“I have asked my team to make sure that we remove blocks to civil servants being able to access social media as soon as possible – if we want a civil service that can respond to modern day challenges we need to modernise the way we works and be able to have a two-way conversation with the public through the channels they use,” he said.

Chapter 4: How to Gather Social Media Evidence

Chapter 4: Social Media Case Examples and Court Decisions

1. Request for user names and passwords granted: Zimmerman v. Weiss Markets

In the Zimmerman v. Weis Markets Inc. case, Zimmerman was an employee of a subcontractor of Weis Markets and was seeking damages for an injury that occurred at work. Zimmerman claimed that an accident seriously and permanently impaired his health. Weis Markets reviewed the public portions of Zimmerman’s Facebook and MySpace pages, and felt that there might be some additional information to refute the damage claims in the private sections of his profile.

How to Be Civil on Social Media

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On the public portions of his profile, the company found photos of Zimmerman engaging in some of his favorite activities after the accident took place at work. They knew the photos were from after the accident because his scar from the accident was visible in the pictures.

The court ordered Zimmerman to hand over his passwords and login information to the counsel for Weis Markets so that they could access the private sections of his Facebook and MySpace accounts. The opinion released by the court said:

“Zimmerman voluntarily posted all of the pictures and information on his Facebook and MySpace sites to share with other users of these social network sites, and he cannot now claim he possesses any reasonable expectation of privacy to prevent Weis Markets from access to such information.

“By definition, a social networking site is the interactive sharing of your personal life with others; the recipients are not limited in what they do with such knowledge. With the initiation of litigation to seek a monetary award based upon limitations or harm to one’s person, any relevant, non-privileged information about one’s life that is shared with others and can be gleaned by defendants from the internet is fair game in today’s society.”

2. Facebook status update used to corroborate an alibi: The Rodney Bradford case

In another case, a New York teenager’s Facebook status update provided evidence that helped to keep him out of jail. The teen had been arrested for a mugging in Brooklyn. Despite his insistence that he wasn’t connected to the crime, the boy spent nearly two weeks in jail before his father discovered a Facebook status update he had made from his Harlem apartment one minute before the mugging, which was 12 miles away.

The boy’s father presented the Facebook evidence to the district attorney, who then went on to submit a subpoena to Facebook to verify the location from which the status update was made. The time stamp and the location were used as evidence to prove that the boy wasn’t at the scene of the crime. He was cleared of the charges based on the electronic evidence.

3. User name and password request denied: Arcq v. Fields

In this case, James Arcq was seeking damages because of an auto collision, claiming that the driver of the other vehicle, Robert Fields, was negligent. Arcq claimed that the accident resulted in an inability to participate in certain activities. The defendants in the case believed that Arcq had profiles on social media sites, and requested that user names and passwords to all of Arcq’s profiles be handed over. The defendant’s request was not made based on information obtained by viewing the public contents of Arcq’s social media profiles.

In the opinion document in the Arcq v. Fields case, the request to hand over social media username and passwords was denied because the defendant wasn’t able to show a valid reason to believe that there was relevant information on the plaintiff’s social media profiles. The opinion also mentioned that the defendants in the case didn’t seem sure that Arcq even had any social media accounts.

4. Evidence not properly authenticated: Griffin v. State of Maryland

In the Griffin v. State of Maryland case, Griffin had been charged with multiple counts in the death of a man at a bar. Prior to the trial, Griffin’s girlfriend allegedly threatened one of the witnesses on MySpace. The witness that was allegedly threatened gave two different versions of his story in the first and second trials, later explaining that there was a discrepancy in his stories because he was threatened prior to the first trial.

On the day after Griffin’s girlfriend testified, the State introduced pages that had been printed from a MySpace account. The account was in the name of “SISTASOULJAH” and had the same birthday and hometown as Griffin’s girlfriend. There was also a photo of a couple on the page, which counsel and the court agreed appeared to be a picture of Griffin and his girlfriend.

Defense objected to the use of the MySpace printouts in the case because Griffin’s girlfriend was never questioned about the MySpace account and whether or not it belonged to her. It could not be determined exactly when the message containing the threat was sent, and it also couldn’t be verified that Griffin’s girlfriend was the one who sent the message. It was argued that anyone could have set up that page and posted the threat.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial the defendant’s murder conviction for the State’s failure to properly authenticate the MySpace pages. The court found the trial judge abused his discretion in attempting to authenticate the MySpace post through the lead investigator’s testimony only. The court found that the picture of the girlfriend, coupled with her birth date and location, were not sufficient to authenticate the printout.

Every year when I convene North Carolina criminal defense investigators to plan their sessions for the annual spring public defender conference, I look forward to hearing about new ideas for sessions to include at the conference. They repeatedly request social media topics. The light bulb did not come on for me until I attended the 2017 National Defender Investigator Conference in April. After three full days of plenary and breakout sessions, I realized that social media and the internet are essential training topics.

Since I am a lightweight when it comes to social media, I had not given it a lot of thought when planning trainings. Besides, unlike the investigators, attorneys are not filling up their conference evaluations with ideas for social media topics. .

Like it or not, social media is everywhere. It is how many of us learn (firsthand or secondhand) of national and local events. Businesses, local governments, entertainers, and even the president of the United States use online social networks to disseminate information or leverage their social media presence.

Over the past several years, SOG faculty have produced written resources about social media, such as Michael Crowell’s bulletin on Judicial Ethics and Social Media (Dec. 2015) and Jeff Welty’s book on Digital Evidence (2015), which includes a chapter on the admissibility of electronic evidence. We also have included pertinent sessions in our training courses. Initially the focus was on ethical challenges. Attorneys should be aware of the boundaries when promoting their business or communicating with clients and witnesses. Judicial officials may be concerned about using social media to express their personal or political views on social media, or they want to learn how to avoid accidental ex-parte communications.

The need for education on social media is no longer limited to ethics. Social media has found its way into the courtroom. Opposing parties include social networking activity in discovery requests. Attorneys present personal information posted on social networking sites to defend cases and discredit parties in civil cases. Since social media may be a topic during litigation, attorneys and judicial officials should be familiar with the various types of social networking sites and the constant changes that occur in this realm. For example, Shannon Tufts, Associate Professor of Law and Government at the SOG, taught a session at the Department of Social Services Attorneys’ 2016 winter conference titled Social Media: What’s Out There? How are Client’ Using It? She taught a similar session last year in May 2016 for the investigators at the Spring Public Defender and Investigator Conference. Professor Tufts explained how social networking sites (old and new) work and the shift in how different age groups utilize the various sites.

Social media is often significant in civil cases because family law or abuse, neglect and dependency proceedings, for example, are really about interpersonal relationships. People share a plethora of personal details about their lives. We can consult social media to learn instantly when a person has a migraine, proposes marriage, or is upset with their children or significant other. I admit I use social media to stay abreast of my young nieces and nephews’ lives. I have watched them graduate school and raise their children. But, I digress, which also is easy to do when perusing online social networks.

Even if attorneys and judicial officials do not use online social networks personally, it is important that they are aware of the various social networking sites and understand how people utilize them. The world of social media is constantly changing, and they should be comfortable addressing social media issues in and out of the courtroom.

I look forward to hearing how social media impacts your civil cases. Please let us know how we at the School of Government can help you understand social media and the law.

Every year when I convene North Carolina criminal defense investigators to plan their sessions for the annual spring public defender conference, I look forward to hearing about new ideas for sessions to include at the conference. They repeatedly request social media topics. The light bulb did not come on for me until I attended the 2017 National Defender Investigator Conference in April. After three full days of plenary and breakout sessions, I realized that social media and the internet are essential training topics.

Since I am a lightweight when it comes to social media, I had not given it a lot of thought when planning trainings. Besides, unlike the investigators, attorneys are not filling up their conference evaluations with ideas for social media topics. .

Like it or not, social media is everywhere. It is how many of us learn (firsthand or secondhand) of national and local events. Businesses, local governments, entertainers, and even the president of the United States use online social networks to disseminate information or leverage their social media presence.

Over the past several years, SOG faculty have produced written resources about social media, such as Michael Crowell’s bulletin on Judicial Ethics and Social Media (Dec. 2015) and Jeff Welty’s book on Digital Evidence (2015), which includes a chapter on the admissibility of electronic evidence. We also have included pertinent sessions in our training courses. Initially the focus was on ethical challenges. Attorneys should be aware of the boundaries when promoting their business or communicating with clients and witnesses. Judicial officials may be concerned about using social media to express their personal or political views on social media, or they want to learn how to avoid accidental ex-parte communications.

The need for education on social media is no longer limited to ethics. Social media has found its way into the courtroom. Opposing parties include social networking activity in discovery requests. Attorneys present personal information posted on social networking sites to defend cases and discredit parties in civil cases. Since social media may be a topic during litigation, attorneys and judicial officials should be familiar with the various types of social networking sites and the constant changes that occur in this realm. For example, Shannon Tufts, Associate Professor of Law and Government at the SOG, taught a session at the Department of Social Services Attorneys’ 2016 winter conference titled Social Media: What’s Out There? How are Client’ Using It? She taught a similar session last year in May 2016 for the investigators at the Spring Public Defender and Investigator Conference. Professor Tufts explained how social networking sites (old and new) work and the shift in how different age groups utilize the various sites.

Social media is often significant in civil cases because family law or abuse, neglect and dependency proceedings, for example, are really about interpersonal relationships. People share a plethora of personal details about their lives. We can consult social media to learn instantly when a person has a migraine, proposes marriage, or is upset with their children or significant other. I admit I use social media to stay abreast of my young nieces and nephews’ lives. I have watched them graduate school and raise their children. But, I digress, which also is easy to do when perusing online social networks.

Even if attorneys and judicial officials do not use online social networks personally, it is important that they are aware of the various social networking sites and understand how people utilize them. The world of social media is constantly changing, and they should be comfortable addressing social media issues in and out of the courtroom.

I look forward to hearing how social media impacts your civil cases. Please let us know how we at the School of Government can help you understand social media and the law.

Opinion

Information technology promises “the best of times” with its universal access to knowledge and news. The attendant social media revolution enhances debate, content creation and idea sharing, bearing the prospect of unprecedented civil discourse for (borrowing again from Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities) an “age of wisdom” and “the spring of hope”.

Lamentably, this revolution is easily subverted into the “worst of times”. Civil discourse quickly descends into incivility, with scurrilous slurs and offensive stereotypes prominent on many online forums. Making matters worse, instantaneous sharing enables the unthinking re-post of unverified information.

Social media’s cloak of invisibility and mask of anonymity offer impunity in antagonistic disregard for societal values, conventional politeness and even basic accuracy in passing on information. The current state of social media culture hints at an “age of foolishness” and a possible “winter of despair”.

We could call the current state of social media a mixed blessing and have done so. But there is cause for urgent concern.

The mob mentality enjoys merciless rule in online disputes. This cyber bullying includes racial affronts, sexist snickers and rampant rudeness. Ignoring the hurting victims, some defend this simply as online vernacular. Such leniency suggests despair of ever evolving a better culture of cognitive and affective empathy.

The ethos prevalent in social media can impact society at large. Online chauvinism will dictate the norm when impressionable readers imitate its antisocial bravado, expediting its spread to offline mainstream culture.

Meanwhile, society is cheated of opportunities to grow and learn if people with good ideas are repelled or intimidated by an online culture of destructive criticism.

Social media culture cannot be left to sort itself out – no society ever emerged spontaneously stronger from a discordant revolution. We have the opportunity to do something about antisocial aspects of social media or to walk on by.

Many netizens, taking discretion to be the better part of valour, circumnavigate sites where they know blatant bigotry and rude language predominate. But retreat into intellectual cliques, while comfortable, leaves antisocial culture to prevail unchallenged.

WHO IS IN CHARGE?

Various organisations are concerned for the vulnerable on social media. Schools teach media literacy, respectful communication and societal values. Religious institutions conduct courses on interfaith harmony and response to bigotry. Website administrators discreetly expel uncivil commenters.

But these measures alone cannot stem the tide of online violators. And they may create the impression that official channels are merely promoting an agenda, not reflecting society’s values. Clearly there is a need to complement current measures.

The Singapore Kindness Movement springs to mind when we think about organisations speaking out against hurtful and harmful discourse. Its blog publicises its willingness to help worthy “self-initiated voluntary projects” by ground-up movements focusing on kindness or relevant social issues.

Ground-up initiatives seem to be particularly applicable to the problem at hand as existing efforts are by the usual, albeit relevant, authorities and institutions.

Beyond a ground-up approach, resolving unsavoury aspects of social media culture should be from the inside, that is, by netizens who care about civil society.

While leaving problems to be fixed by “those in charge” conforms to our experience as citizens of a well-managed state and products of protective families, in the autonomy of social media, all netizens are “those in charge”.

Today’s netizens are the beneficiaries of all the advantages of social media. As heirs to the social media estate, they have a natural imperative to cultivate and nurture it.

How can concerned netizens take ownership of social media culture?

We could take a lesson from a past example when ownership of community culture was claimed by ordinary citizens, acting individually.

Last year, radio station Kiss92 featured a segment where the hosts made jokes charged with racial stereotypes. Numerous objections by individual netizens ensued, followed by apologies by the hosts, who were surprised that people had taken such strong offence.

The whole incident shows that speaking up by individuals can be effective in arresting unacceptable behaviour, as well as in alerting those who may be oblivious.

Applying the example, in any instance of incivility or inaccuracy, the enlightened netizen must speak up.

Always question politely if any startling news or suspicious complaint has been verified; politely remind online contributors to check news before passing it on.

Encourage true tolerance of diversity by being politely intolerant of divisiveness. Individuals speaking up from the inside would be an interesting ground-up movement.

Admittedly, the downside of speaking up from the inside is the risk of rude rejoinders. The netizen who values online civil society will soon develop the calloused skin of the peaceful warrior.

Besides individuals, groups of concerned netizens could make a difference. This is a golden opportunity for young netizens to help construct the online ethos, rather than witness its continued descent in default mode.

Social media is still a new world, requiring the brave and the creative to design a new civilisation and culture.

Resourceful netizen groups could aim to assist fellow netizens to speak up. At a basic level, the silent majority may simply be at a loss as to how to respond when they encounter objectionable commenters online. This may be addressed with a starter kit of useful suggestions so as to eventually evolve an online culture that builds community through caring communication.

Creative netizen groups could produce humorous video clips, witty punchlines, clever slogans and a range of emotional appeals to persuade more netizens to speak up.

Innovative netizen groups will find numerous publicity opportunities and incentivising options yet to be explored. Socially responsible institutions and businesses are likely to lend their support to such meaningful mini-movements.

Our young netizens are educated in creative problem-solving. They have witnessed and participated in countless different movements aimed at creating positive change. Having inherited social media, they should be encouraged to think about revolutionising social media culture as their legacy to the future.

• The writer is professor of corporate communication (education) and dean of international affairs at Singapore Management University.

Last week, I took part in a discussion organised by the PRCA about what the Facebook boycott means for charities. I was speaking alongside Simon Francis, founder member of Campaign Collective, and Sarah Clarke, head of membership at CharityComms, who have both been involved in the boycott.

The charity boycott took place throughout July and saw 37 charities, including Barnardo’s, Mind and Parkinson’s UK, pausing advertising on Facebook for the month in protest at the rising level of hate speech on the platform.

CharityComms has also set up a working group to look at broader issues relating to ethics and social media. The aim is to come up with evidence-led recommendations that the sector could put to Facebook and others to make social media less toxic.

Francis told delegates that he had noticed “a marked increase in the amount of blatantly racist comments” posted in a group he moderates, with a lot of it coming from “suspicious looking accounts” who were not genuine members of the community. However, he struggled to get any support from Facebook.

Clarke, meanwhile, said that technology has a “power for good” but unfortunately it is not always being used in the right way.

“Considering that the mission of the charities that we work with is to build a better world, we want to make sure that the tech companies are also working and supporting us to do that in a positive way,” she added.

The ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’

How charities do good is as important as the good they are doing, and increasingly social media is a part of the how.

Whenever we see charities on the front page of national newspapers for the wrong reasons, it is usually because the way they are behaving, mainly through how they raise money, is at odds with the ethical standards people expect them to have.

In the past this has manifested itself in condemnation for the likes of selling t-shirts that were produced in sweatshops and investing in arms companies.

Charities frequently come in for harsh, justified, criticism, even though they have not broken any laws or their own rules, and are not behaving any worse than the typical private company.

Given that there is increased awareness about the dangers social media poses and the negative behaviours it facilitates, it’s natural that it is beginning to throw up ethical questions for staff.

I’d also argue that there’s a reputational risk for charities that are too close to any social media platform that finds itself at the centre of a new scandal.

Power of social media

That said, it’s worth reflecting on how popular social media companies, particularly Facebook, are with members of the public, and the opportunity they present to charities.

They are the gatekeepers to a huge audience of potential donors, supporters and service users.

Social media firms were slow to realise that their platforms could include a fundraising function, but when they did it was hailed as a gamechanger.

There are not many concrete figures, but Facebook claims to raise billions for charities globally. This includes about £6m for Cancer Research UK and £2.5m for Movember.

So the risks that come with using these platforms does need to be balanced against the benefits. Pressuring them to change is the key.

Power of charity brand

It may seem as though social media platforms are all powerful giants that won’t listen to charities. Indeed, they have often shown themselves to be uncooperative and recalcitrant when governments around the world have tried to impose rules and regulation.

But charities are powerful too. Maybe not in terms of advertising spend, but the sector has a huge audience of social media users who will listen to, and be influenced by, advice from charities.

As Francis noted, contacting anyone at tech companies can prove frustrating. I know that from my job trying to report on social media stories affecting charities – if you have questions, it can be challenging to get answers.

However, when these companies are announcing new features aimed at the charity sector, they have certainly been keen to make sure Civil Society News is aware of the development and gives it coverage.

It’s also worth remembering that historically all types of companies have sought to align themselves with charities in order to demonstrate their CSR credentials, and tech companies are no different.

So charities do have some leverage. Withholding their endorsement for a platform is a way of ensuring that any skeletons in the social media firm’s closet are dealt with, preventing embarrassment to both parties further down the line.

Who is having the conversation?

A few years ago when we spoke about social media to trustees and senior executives, the drive was to get them to understand the potential it offered in terms of reaching new audiences and delivering services differently.

Things have moved on, and for the most part, people in leadership positions understand their value as a communications tool. The current crisis has certainly helped to underline how much can be achieved virtually.

Now the challenge is to make sure that boards and executive teams are also having these more nuanced conversations about the ethics of social media so that their strategic decisions are properly informed by the debate.

It can feel unfair that charities are held to higher standards than others. But that attitude doesn’t get the sector very far and grumbling about it won’t solve things. Instead, charities should seize the opportunity to take the lead on shaping the ethical agenda with social media companies before it is too late.

Social media content may be relevant to civil litigation and hence discoverable. What limitations might a court impose on such discovery?

By Ronald Hedges

Social media is ubiquitous. Individuals post all kinds of personal details, including images of themselves in recreational activities, to be shared with or circulated to the public or to a limited number of people with who they have real or ephemeral ties. Social media content may be relevant to civil litigation and hence discoverable. What limitations might a court impose on such discovery? One answer is provided by Scott v. USPS, Civil Action No. 15-712-BAJ-EWD (M.D. La. Dec. 27, 2016).

Scott arose out of a motor-vehicle accident. The plaintiff commenced a civil action and sought damages for personal injuries. One defendant sought discovery of the plaintiff’s social media “about her activities since the accident, which involve physical activity,” and attached to a motion a post-accident image of the plaintiff and her fiancé in ski attire on a mountain. Not surprisingly, the plaintiff resisted the discovery.

The parties resolved their dispute in part. However, the court was left to decide whether certain information about the plaintiff’s social-media accounts should be produced. The court found the information sought to be discoverable under Fed. R. Civ. P.26(f). Nonetheless, the court limited production to all of the plaintiff’s social-media postings, including images, from the date of the accident forward that related to her alleged physical injuries or “reflect[ed] physical capabilities that are inconsistent with” the injuries she allegedly sustained because, as drafted, the discovery request was overbroad.

What lessons does Scott suggest? First, if a party seeks discovery of an adversary’s social media, it would be appropriate to review the party’s public postings for evidence of content relevant to the discovery sought. This avoids the argument that the requesting party is engaged in a proverbial “fishing expedition.” Second, when framing a request for social media, counsel should strive for specificity, both as to subject matter and time period, to avoid argument that the request is overbroad.

Ronald Hedges is with Dentons in New York, New York.

Copyright В© 2017, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).

How to Be Civil on Social MediaWe recently updated the guidance for using digital and social media. Digital channels and techniques are increasingly important ways for civil servants to engage and interact with the audiences we all serve. However, it’s vital that we’re aware of the pitfalls and risks, and what can happen when things go wrong.

The social media guidance is there to provide support and clarity about what to watch out for when going online, but you should also read your own department’s policy on social media use.

Here are 7 social media myths to watch out for:

Myth 1 – The Civil Service Code doesn’t apply online

Remember, the same high levels of propriety are expected of civil servants online as they are in any other context. If it’s not right to say something in the real world, then it’s probably also the case on social media. Keeping this in mind will help you post with confidence online.

Myth 2 – If we do something wrong online it can always be deleted

We leave digital ‘footprints’ wherever we go. This can range from someone taking a screengrab, through to Wikipedia keeping the IP addresses of all those who have edited a page with details of what changes were made. So bear that in mind before posting something that could be contentious.

Myth 3 – There are too many rules using social media, so it’s best not to bother with it

Digital is a vital way for us to engage with our audiences. We should continue to engage and connect online. The social media guidelines are designed to give clarity so we can use social media with confidence and maintain the highest levels of propriety expected of us as civil servants.

Myth 4 – It doesn’t matter what you say outside working hours

As civil servants we must adhere to the highest levels of propriety at all times. The Civil Service Code makes clear what is expected of staff.

Myth 5 – Government computers don’t have an IP address

An IP address is the unique identifier for a computer, router or network. This means that inappropriate digital updates can be traced back to government computer systems. Individual devices can then also be pinpointed. Remember that by connecting a personal device (such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone) to a government wifi network, any inappropriate publication could still be traced back to a government IT system.

Myth 6 – You can’t use social media at work: Most of us have no restrictions on accessing social media at work

Lines have become blurred between activity in our working lives and elsewhere. That’s a good reason why we need to maintain the highest levels of propriety at all times. Some departments have restrictions about exactly what devices can be used in the workplace. It’s best to check with your own department about any restrictions so you can use social media with confidence.

Myth 7 – You can’t have a Twitter account you use for professional and personal purposes

It’s usually perfectly acceptable to use the same Twitter account for our lives both inside and outside work. As long as everything we do adheres to the Civil Service Code and any other restrictions specific to your job, then we are free to use it to tweet as usual . This can be from life outside work as well as being an effective way to reach out to our professional stakeholders. Beware that mentioning “views are my own, not my organisation” on your Twitter biography is no defence against tweeting something inappropriate.

You can follow the Civil Service twitter account @UKCivilService and Anthony on @anthonysimon

Note: Title changed to ‘7 deadly myths’ as the article is about myth-busting rather than reinforcing negative behaviour

  • The revolution will not only be televised but apparently it will also be uploaded, downloaded, streamed, posted and tweeted as well.

    What America has been witnessing — from the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Mike Brown in Ferguson to Eric Garner in Staten Island, Walter Scott in North Charleston and Freddie Gray in Baltimore — is the birth of a new civil rights movement. But this movement is a little different from your parents’ or your grandparents’ civil rights movement.

    Social struggles for freedom, justice and equality have their similarities, to be sure. And to some extent, it seems we are still fighting for some of the same things, because the more things change, the more they remain the same. Racism and brutality are still around and apparently have no intention of leaving quietly. But the techniques and structures of organizing and movement building have met twenty-first century sensibilities. This new movement is online. It is on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, in your inbox and in a video on your cellphone.

    Technology has helped give birth to the new civil rights movement.

    #BlackLivesMatter was founded by three black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi — by way of social media. When a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Garza, enraged and filled with of grief, took to Facebook. “I posted on Facebook in that moment that it wasn’t OK for us to not be surprised that someone could not be held accountable for the murder of an unarmed, black teenager,” Garza told NPR. “And so I think the note was something like, black people, I love you, I love us, we got us and our lives matter.” Cullors added a hashtag, and the rest is history.

    The women wanted to create a movement “that could firmly stand on the shoulders of movements that have come before us, such as the civil rights movement, while innovating on its strategies, practices and approaches to finally centralize the leadership of those existing at the margins of our economy and our society,” as Opal Tometi noted.

    In some ways reminiscent of the Black Power Movement, #BlackLivesMatter has not only been associated with the violence waged against black bodies but has also encompassed numerous socioeconomic issues such as advocating for full employment, quality housing and education and an end to racial profiling and mass incarceration. Cullors recently discussed #BlackSpring — the latest outgrowth of #BlackLivesMatter with echoes of the Arab Spring — with the HuffPost Show:

    Black Spring is about really looking at this moment, as not these isolated incidences.… Black people are not a monolithic group, but what we are facing is something that’s extreme — and that’s poverty, that’s homelessness, that’s higher rates of joblessness, that’s law enforcement invading our communities day in and day out — and we are uprising. And so this Black Spring is about really talking about a national uprising. We should be honored to talk about this moment.

    Last year, a panel of scholars from around the country selected #BlackLivesMatter as the 2014 Digital Trend of the Year as part of the Digital Folklore Project at Utah State University.

    This new movement has demonstrated how digital technology can become an effective tool for social change, not to replace face-to-face human contact but hopefully to facilitate the people-to-people organizing that is both necessary and irreplaceable. #BlackLivesMatter is able to learn from the successes, as well as the failures, of other digitally-focused movements.

    Todd Wolfson, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, is the author of Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left. In his book, Wolfson examines the history of a new media-oriented social movements he calls the “Cyber Left,” from their early days of the Indymedia movement and the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, up to #OccupyWallStreet.

    There are three characteristics which have set the Cyber Left apart, including the use of new technologies and strategies to build a social movement, a decentralized network structure, and governance through the use of participatory democracy.

    As opposed to old school social movements, which were based on organizations, unions or political parties, the newer movements are global but with decentralized, local and autonomous power. In addition, while media and communications once served as the mouthpiece of a social movement back in the day, Wolfson notes that now, in the information age, “communications acts more like the network of a network-based social movement, transmitting signals to different parts of the movement and thus coordinating its actions.”

    However, Wolfson also notes the Cyber Left — which up to the Occupy movement was led by young college-educated, middle-class white men — has had its drawbacks, such as “a lack of leadership from those most oppressed,” and an “inability to make proactive decisions and build long-term powerful social movement organizations.” Further, “technology, and new-media tools specifically, have become more important than social relationships, organizing and movement building.” A final characteristic of these movements is “lack of a shared strategy and political-education program to build clear and committed leaders.”

    These Cyber Left movements that came before #BlackLivesMatter were able to grow up to a point but were unable to build long-term infrastructure and ultimately were limited in their effectiveness and viability.

    Although it is too early to say where #BlackLivesMatter is headed, you can believe it is far more than a hashtag. And while the movement is very much social media, it is also very human, on the ground, connecting people and organizations and empowering the grassroots. They are not going anywhere yet.

    Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove