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Social media and the law

GavelAt today’s Investor Relations Conference at the London Stock Exchange, fellow panellist, media lawyer, Duncan Calow from DLA Piper, gave an excellent presentation of the law as it regards social media. The areas of the law that those engaging in this area – from bloggers to brands – should at least have some awareness of. He summarised the different aspects of the law as ‘known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns’, as follows:

Known knowns
Defamation
Privacy
Intellectual property rights
Contempt of court
Breech of [employment] contract

Known unknowns
Listing rules
Employment law
Telecommunications Act
Protection From Harassment Act
Terrorism Act

Unknown unknowns
Blogs and social media in the courts
“What is unlawful offline is unlawful online”
US experience [and how it may affect UK law]
UK development
Nigel Smith v ADVFN – July 2008
Author of a blog v Times newspaper – June 2009
Ministry of Justice – Defamation and the Internet, consultation paper – September 2009

I’d also add that those working in social media should be aware of the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations which outlaws:

  • Creating fake blogs
  • Falsely representing oneself as a customer; and
  • Falsely advertising on social media site

In this area the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Code of Conduct is also well worth understanding, it states:

  1. Consumer protection and respect are paramount
  2. The Honesty ROI: Honesty of Relationship, Opinion, and Identity
  3. We respect the rules of the venue
  4. We manage relationships with minors responsibly
  5. We promote honest downstream communications
  6. We protect privacy and permission in a campaign when asked by consumers or the media.
  7. We will provide contact information upon request.

Did you know, shift happens?

This afternoon I’ve been preparing for next week’s Emarketeers Social Media & Marketing training course, updating my presentation from July (a lot happens in two months in these parts). I’ve been pondering how to kick things off and been looking at a few videos, including reviewing the Socialnomics vid I mentioned a few weeks ago. I was reminded of the Shift Happens, also know as the Did You Know? videos, the original of which came out in 2007 and were made by XPlane. They aimed to explain some of the changes that were occurring through globalisation. Here’s the original:

The video quickly went viral and has now had a number of iterations.

In a happy accident I discovered that today Xplane launched their latest video that they describe as an update to Shift Happens, in partnership with the Economist. It focuses on what they describe as the ‘changing media landscape’ and they’ve entitled it “Did You Know 4.0″ and it will been shown at the Media Convergence Forum in October. But you get to see it way before then here:

However, both videos, like the Socialnomics one, are US centric, which I think in a UK/European context (or any other really) diminishes some of their power.

I would like to know if anyone is aware of any videos or material that do a similar job but are more globally or UK/European minded? There is after all a lot of data out there that in all likelihood someone may have used.

Failing that, offers for how we might put something like this together would be fabulous!

Books for August and beyond part 2

Continuing on from yesterday’s media theme:

Book: Communication PowerCommunication Power
Manuel Castells
Hardback, 575 pages (of which the Appendix, Bibliography and Index take up the last 150 pages)
Published: July 2009
Oxford University Press
Ease of reading: 1/5

It needs to be said up front that this is an academic book, written in an academic style with references within the text to other academics and books. It builds on from Castells’ series of three books looking at the Information Age published in the late 90s and early 2000s and his book The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective.

Castells starts by relating his personal experiences living and growing up in Franco Spain – where if he wanted to read Freud he had to go to the only library in Barcelona with access to his work and fill out a form explaining why or if he wanted to read Marx or Satre a journey in to neighbouring France was necessary – and how this influenced his understanding and interest in power and communication.

In the first part of the book Castells takes us from an anlysis of power – referencing a great number of thinkers not normally grouped together along the way – to how this understanding of power can be applied to a network society. He describes his perspective on power as “ecectic” and summarises that:

…power is not located in one particualar social sphere or instituion, but it is distributed throughout the entire realm of human action. Yet, there are concentrated expressions of pwer relationships in certain social formas that condition and frame the practice of power in society at large by enforcing domination. Power is relational, domination is institutional.

The book then examines communications in a digital age, looking at areas such as key relationships between multinational media and diversified internet corporations, regulatory policies and creative audiences. The majority of the book delves into how the relationship between communications and politics within this networked society; how it is programmed and how it needs re-programming.

As an aside, Castells comes to similar conclusions as Nick Davies regarding Rupert Murdoch:

Murdoch is an ideologically conservative media tycoon who keeps personal control over the third largest and most profitable mutlimedia business conglomerate in the world. But he is, above all, a successful businessman who understood that his power would be maximised by keeping his options open.

Castells concludes his book with a task: to ensure the preservation of the internet – “a free creation of freedom lovers” – against the power-holders within the network.

… if you think differently, communication networks will operate differently, on the condition that not only you, but I and a multitude choose to build the networks of our lives.

Whilst Castells hopes that anyone interested in communication and power would read this book, it is only for the most determined within that group. As ‘Norman‘ amusingly, but unfairly points out with his Amazon review: “Considering this is a book about communication it is the most badly written book I have ever read. There are some good (and interesting) points made but a very difficult book ‘to get into’.”

If you want a less hard going book this summer on the media read Flat Earth News. But if you want a book that gives a wider perspective of how communications, not just the media, operate in the context of politics, commercialisation and the network society this is your mountain to climb.

Books for August (and/or beyond) part 1.

Whether you’re enjoying a staycation, holidaying or working through August here is the first installment of three books that are worth a peek this August. I’ve graded them out of five for “ease of reading” so that you know what you’re possibly getting into.

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Book: Flat Earth NewsFlat Earth News: an award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media
Nick Davies
Paperback, 320 pages
Published: Jan 2009
Ease of reading: 4/5

Whilst to many cynics Davies’ revelations may be nothing new, the research and evidence gathering that has gone into his book combined with a strongly built argument, make it essential reading for consumers, students and those working in the media industry alike.

Davies wholeheartedly believes that the role of journalism is to seek out and report the truth, and he finds very little in today’s media upholding this ideal. Analysing what has happened to create this situation Davies takes the reader on a journey through newspaper ownership, corporatisation, the new rules of production, the role of newswires, PR and looks into some of the darker corners of the industry.

You may not agree with all his conclusions, or his idealism, but the overview he portrays of the industry is insightful and gives plenty of pause for thought.