It’s been a momentous week in which 3 incidents have shown how the UK has really woken up to the power of social media.
The week kicked off on Tuesday morning with London law firm Cater-Ruck attempting to silence the UK Guardian from reporting a question in parliament. The Guardian led the next day with a story that was nothing less than a red rag to a raging bull:
“The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.
Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.
The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.”
Guardian editor Alan Rusbriger is social media savvy.
The Guardian knew full well and anticipated that this paragraph is just the kind of challenge the Twitter hoards adore. Us against the rich bastard lawyers. The formula works thus:
- Tell us there is a secret.
- Tell us it’s significant.
- Leave enough of a hint on where to find it.
What happened next is now media history.
Suffice to say that by lunch time the next day Carter-Ruck had given up on their quest for the continuance of the injunction, while both they and the firm which they sought to protect – Trafigura – became Twitter trending topics.
The Minton report, an internal report by the Trafigura (which itself had found its way to Wikileaks), which they also had sought to repress, was discovered, found and retweeted far and wide.
For Jeff Jarvis, always good with conjuring up a memorable one-liner, the take away was summed up in a Tweet:
@jeffjarvis: New rule in new age:The harder one tries to hide a fact, the more light others will shed on it. http://bit.ly/qXDoi
Two days later. Another two social media uprisings.
“A TfL (that’s Transport for London for any of you who have not had the unabated pleasure of using its services) employee is filmed swearing at and threatening an elderly passenger on the London Underground.
The film is posted online and picked up by Twitter members. It emerges that the employee in question is called Ian (and he doesn’t protect his Facebook profile, stupidly) and comes to the attention of the Mayor of London. He asks TfL to investigate and TfL apparently suspends the employee.”
About 30 seconds later the doors opened again and he removed his arm.
I watched as he calmly relayed his experience to the staff member (who was called Ian by the way).
Ian didn’t think it was a problem – in fact, he was furious that the guy had mentioned it at all, especially as the guy was standing close to the track.
After a while, Ian started shouting at the guy to “stand back there is a fucking train approaching“.
Savvy jmacdonald pans upward to record where & when the incident took place.
On the same day Jan Moir writes a hurtful article about the death of Steven Gately in the Daily Mail, intimating that his gay lifestyle was to blame. Twitter denizens mobilise again. By today more than 22,000 have complained to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), more complaints than it has received in 5 years.
On Friday advertisers including Marks & Spencer demanded that their advertising be removed from the webpage on which Moir’s piece was published, although Mail Online had already taken the decision to remove banner ads.
Moir, who has won a British Press Award, made a statement defending her column late on Friday, saying it was not her intention to offend, blaming a “heavily orchestrated internet campaign” for the furore and adding that it was “mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones”.
Presumably comedian Stephen Fry – who has one of the larger Twitter followings in the UK – and who came out strongly criticising Moir is seen as one of the fire starters.
Paul Bradshaw, online journalism lecturer and blogger, has set out to try to understand how “orchestrated” this “campaign” has really been. And he has asked for others to help him establish that, including the online crowdsourcing investigative site – Help me investigate. One of the comments he has received to his call reads:
“I’m an admin on the fb group alongside Stella. I can confirm there was nothing orchestrated about the facebook campaign – it happened pretty much as others have outlined above. I don’t think any of us expected quite so many people to join in such a small space of time! What has been particularly amazing to me are the spin off activities that have resulted from people posting on the wall. For example, there is a petition to BA to stop handing out free copies of the Daily Mail – which arose (as far as I can tell) as a direct result of people talking on the original FB group. There are a number of other linked groups and activities – difficult to keep up with them all! This is grassroots organisation facilitated by a social networking site, nothing more sinister than that.
PS: I don’t use Twitter and neither does Stella as far as I know.”
It’s all very exciting. With each of these incidents, the public’s awareness of using social media to mobilise is growing. And so is the sophistication of their use of social media tools.
Social media is far more significant far sooner than I ever anticipated. It’s mobocracy – and I like it.
Interestingly enough, two of the incidents were started by reports (or suggestions) in the press. The other one by a member of the public, who blogs, Tweets and is handy with a cam.
One tweet I saw this week said:
@dannyrogers2001: #Trafigura the perfect modern media case study. Social media influential but ‘old’ media (Guardian) drives agenda.
That is wishful thinking. It’s more of a symbiosis me thinks. ‘Old’ media sets out a stall for many agendas on a daily basis. But so does social media. And in an ever-increasing fashion.
But it’s ultimately the people who decide which agenda goes stellar.
Posted by Wessel van Rensburg