I wrote this piece for ‘Resolution‘, the magazine of the Restorative Justice Council, which has just been published. It’s a different angle on the Brenda Leyland ‘trolling’ story.
A recent piece, published for The Conversation UK, under Creative Commons licence (republished on Durham University):
By Bex Lewis, Durham University
Brenda Leyland, a 63-year old woman from Leicestershire who had been accused of publishing a stream of internet abuse about the family of missing child Madeleine McCann, has been found dead in a hotel room.
Her death raises important questions about the wrongs and rights of how we handle people who express unpalatable views online.
Leyland had been exposed in a Sky News report as the person behind the Twitter account @sweepyface, which had been used to post offensive messages about the McCanns. These included the accusation that Madeleine’s parents were responsible for her disappearance. When confronted by a Sky News reporter about whether she should have posted such messages, Leyland said: “I’m entitled to do that.”
Days before Leyland’s death, BBC Radio 4 ran a story about how the police were investigating abusive social media messages sent to, or published about, the McCanns. Madeleine’s father Gerry McCann featured, suggesting that these messages are fuelled by press reporting. He added that he thinks more people should be charged for internet abuse and revealed that his family tends to avoid the internet because of the nature of threats and insults they receive.
For obvious reasons, the McCanns had encouraged a high-profile press campaign after Madeleine’s disappearance. But without answers about what happened to Madeleine, conspiracy theories have abounded. Brenda Leyland was one of many to discuss the McCann case online. As Rev Pam Smith, one of my Facebook connections said, are we really saying that people are not “entitled” to share adverse views online?
Leyland said she “hoped she hadn’t broken any laws”, but the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which covers Twitter, notes that it is an offence to send messages to another person which are “indecent or grossly offensive”, threatening or false. If the message is intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient, they breach the law.
We have to consider whether Sky has a case to answer in this particular situation too though. The broadcaster’s correspondent approached Mrs Leyland on her own doorstep in a live broadcast. She evidently had no idea that she was going to be confronted or that the footage would be broadcast to the world.
Whether or not we like what Leyland had been doing, she was clearly just one of several people who had been expressing their opinions online. She was certainly not the worst. Is doorstepping people, outing them on TV, and ensuring that their face circulates the internet, really the answer? Had Sky done any research into this woman before they put her face in the public domain? Did they know anything about her mental state? Did she just have the misfortune to be the first person who could be made an example of?
Her case carried echoes of the recent media treatment of Cliff Richard. The BBC was heavily rapped for broadcasting live from his home as police raided it. The police of course need to investigate such stories but it is a worrying sign of our culture that trial by media and even trial by gossip appear to have become acceptable.
Media ethics are typically concerned with truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, public accountability and limitation of harm. After the Leveson inquiry, there has been increased emphasis on press responsibility. But in a time of rapid media change and fast-moving news, broadcasters must ensure they too meet their ethical responsibilities.
Bex Lewis does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
I knew I was about due the end of my contract with Three, and I’ve had days where I’ve loved my Samsung S3, and days when I haven’t, but I’m guessing no phone is perfect. Was getting excited about the idea of the Samsung S5 as apparently they’d improved loads of things on it, particularly the battery life! However, last year I became vaguely aware of the @Fairphone, and as I often make mention of how to behave ethically/morally online, it’s made me think a lot more about what I own in the electronics sphere (to be honest, don’t own a great deal of other “stuff” of any value), so I started to think about it. Then at #TDC14 the other week, there was a speaker talking about the wars in the Congo – and that most of them are down to fighting over the minerals in mobile phones – so people are dying for our technology.
I need a really good phone as so much of my job is reliant upon digital, so I was nervous about going to such a small brand, but a few more tech-savvy friends (I’m more of the ‘Can I do this with it? Great! Can you do it?’ school when it comes to digital – although there’s an increasing number of tools that are easy to use, and those I work with too) about the spec, and it was said to be at least as good as the S3, probably better – and it’s dual-SIM – maybe I can get an extra SIM card and then have a mobile number to give out for work – I like to impose boundaries on at least some of my tech. Walking into the Three store – one of their staff hadn’t heard of it – looked it up – and said it was a good spec – so now moved to a SIM only deal. Financially, this will work out about £200 cheaper overall once I’ve used the Fairphone for a couple of years … and it appears my “old” phone is still worth about £100 on ebay! I have asked around on Twitter/Facebook quite a lot recently – and people who have them all seem really pleased with them … so an even bigger number of us appear to be diving in this year … There are 35,000 phones being manufactured ready for July 2014 – right now 13,034 have been sold.
Ethical Superstore has written a piece on this, ending:
Buying electronics should be no different to buying coffee or tea. If we want to see a fairer world, we need to support the companies that are working to make that happen. Through our purchasing decisions we provide the demand that allows these companies to grow. As consumers we can vote with our wallets…we just need to make sure we vote for the change we want to see.
and Rankabrand defines it as the most environmentally sustainable phone… and most of its sales seems to be on word-of-mouth. Am committed now, so…
I know this is an old one, but as I think about Photoshopped Selves:
I’ve just had a commissioned piece published on the Church of England’s Church Growth Research & Development Blog. Here’s the start:
For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even think about it. Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and light in the world, and for thousands in the ‘digital age’, that world includes social networks such Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. With literally billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces presented by churches need to be appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an afterthought: they are now effectively the ‘front door’ to your church for digital users, and you ignore those spaces at your peril.
Read the full piece.
Had a good email conversation with Quentin the other week, and here’s some of the results:
In days gone by, connecting on a large scale meant Christians having to meet in person, in conference centres or church halls. Now, Christians anywhere and everywhere can connect with each other online every day.
A virtual community has built up around the Bible thanks to The Big Bible Project, which currently has 60 active contributors and has around 148,000 visitors to the website.
And there are other possibilities through existing social networks like Facebook, with its 700 million active users, and Twitter, with its 300 million active users.
Read full article.
So, after I’d chatted to Odiirah about her work path and role, we moved on to talk about the impact of digital in Uganda in general, as we’ve naturally been in some of the poorest areas, where digital is not so much a presence as it appears to be elsewhere, although yesterday’s village had a mobile shop, and evidence that more of the villagers had some kind of mobile phone.
Online most people use Skype (although not loads, as the signal is poor and breaks up a lot), and Facebook – a lot! They’ve not really started using Twitter yet, although there’s definitely an awareness of it. The people using these tools are mostly in the towns, and mostly the youth, as those who are older are either not much interested or say they don’t have time for it… people like Odiirah’s dad have been forced onto Facebook, but he hasn’t really got it. Facebook really helps people stay connected with their friends, and people love sharing photos, and in fact seem to share every little thing – certainly no worries about privacy (there’s a sense that people haven’t been using it long enough to see how people could use it in a bad way).
The mobile phone, which has already taken off in a big way in Uganda for those who can afford it (it’s still regarded as a luxury), and new plans are being developed that are leaning more towards data (remember the other day that we paid around £18 for 3GB). Lots of phone networks offer plans which allow free viewing of Facebook, and of status updates (though you still have to pay to update photos), which encourages people to use their phones more – and they are then more likely to use other paid services.
People are using their phones for voice time – people are on their phones all the time. Those in the villages love the radio on the phone (it’s free), and will put it on loudspeakers for others to hear. Mobile money/banking started in Uganda 2 years ago, first with MTN, but now all networks offer it. Photos and videos are becoming more common and some phones even have TV on them – usually the Chinese phones – which are the poorest quality, but cheap and have extra features (e.g. allow 4 SIM cards, although batteries then don’t last very long). Nokia and Samsung are the original brands in Uganda, and tend to copy the most popular functions. The Chinese phones tend to last only a year, but people tend to prefer something cheap (rather than “cost per wear”) – partly because they are still a luxury, but also because mobile phone robberies are frequent and they don’t want to become a target. In town it’s entirely possible to be talking on the phone and someone will take it.
With regards to other digital tools, computers are still unusual and not accessible to most people, although they are there in towns. In towns there are more computers than elsewhere, and the best schools may have them. If village schools have one, it will be a really old model. Apple laptops are expensive and incredibly rare, although iPads are beginning to come in slowly, but still expensive and owned by only a few.
So, yesterday afternoon, I finally grabbed that promised chat with Oriidah, who has been our local contact for the trip in Uganda. I was interested in the route she’d taken to get to the role she’s in now, and what her role consists of … I then asked some further questions about ‘digital Uganda’ which will form another post for this afternoon.
Odiirah undertook a BA in Journalism & Communications at Kampala University, where she majored in writing for print – typically the most popular specialism as there are a lot of newspapers in Uganda. Most others do broadcasting, although a few do PR, but PR is not big in Uganda, and if you have trained in print or broadcasting, you can still do PR.
The course lasted for three years, with all studying the same material in the first year (including economics), whilst students specilise in the 2nd and 3rd years. Odiirah finished four years ago (June 2008), and those specializing in print often find work quite quickly, as there’s a lot of vacancies, although originally, as many do, she only got taken on as a freelance writer – paid per story that is printed.
In her 2nd year holiday Odiirah worked with some newspapers as a trainee (The Weekly Observer), and stayed for year whilst still at university, only dropping it in the final semester when there was too much research to do. As she already had experience she was able to go to a bigger newspaper – The Daily Monitor, where she wrote features.
I asked whether there were any stories that she particularly remembers writing – and Odiirah said that anything to do with compassion and people in need were the ones that she found most powerful. She wrote a story about a lady with breast cancer (not common in Africa, therefore misunderstood) for cancer month, who was demoted from a senior position – it appears simply because she’d had a breast removed. The woman has had to continue in that role, looking after her brother who is paralysed. (Apparently there are unions in Uganda, but they are not that active… because labour is so cheap).
Another story that Odiirah particularly remembers is that she visited a school for the dumb and the deaf – the only one in the country. She followed a family with four children who were all both deaf and dumb – there’s no help from the government for them. Social Security is available in Uganda, but only for those who are working, e.g. Odiirah pays 5% of her salary in, and the company pays in 15% – if one doesn’t have a salary, one can’t save, and if one earns less than 150,000UGS there’s no security plan available.
Six months after graduation, Odiirah took the job of Communications and Promotions Officer at PAG
As in most departments at PAG there’s just one person in a department .. and many are spread across the districts of Uganda. Odiirah was mainly hired by Tearfund to undertake work for the Connected Churches initiative – where churches in the UK are connected with churches in Uganda. Odiirah’s job was to gather information across the churches. She’s now more fully involved in PEP (The project that Tearfund’s involved in that we’ve come out to see).
Odiirah now collects stories of impacts from communities involved with PEP. There’s too many to collect from all, as she visits each district twice a year for three days. Initially there were 10 districts, with 14 communities in each, and there are now a further 3, with 3 communities in each). Stories are sent as reports to Tearfund – monthly, quarterly, mid-year and annual. Other stories are placed on the website (the blog is new and has not yet evolved), and there is now also a page on Facebook, where further stories are shared. An annual magazine Goma is produced, just going into its second edition, which highlights new projects, and is intended for PAG churches in Uganda. Odiirah intends to develop the blog to share more stories, although Twitter doesn’t yet feature much for Ugandans.
How has the digital affected Uganda in general? See this afternoon’s later post.
Africa is frequently mentioned as one of the places where mobile phones have revolutionalised life – in a country which was too vast to support the infrastructure of landlines, the mobile has given connectivity to many who had never had it before. As we’ve driven through the towns, there are mobile advertisements everywhere – especially for mobile banking, and almost every other shop appears to be selling SIM cards and airtime. So what is it really like on the ground? Is there an equal spread of usage?
This morning we stopped off to recharge the data on our wifi dongles, and for the best part of £20 was able to get 3GB of data (bearing in mind that I’ve used more than one each day so far!) and still have 4 more to go.. and Tearfund wants us to be free to share what we feel is important! In the small shop, there was the usual cheery advertisements for mobile phone, and those certainly focused on data … although most we’d seen on the streets seem to focus on ‘talking’ on the phone. In the Orange shop there was quite a pile of dongles available for purchase, and a handful of phones – several of which looked like Smartphones – but aside from a Samsung that looked like a Blackberry, and a Nokia, the others were brands I’d not heard of – signposted ‘made in China’.
The Nokia Asha 305 Smartphone is highlighted as games (first and foremost), a Browser, Facebook, Twitter and Email, a camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, MP3 & FM Radio, plus free maps, and sold as ‘faster and cheaper’ than other devices. A range of phones specifically for the Ugandan market was in the Organge leaflet – leading on ‘Internet Everywhere’, with a range of simple Android smartphones available. The cheapest phone is ‘Nalongo’ – dual SIM, camera, torch, radio and Facebook – for 69,000 Ugandan Schillings (just over £15 – a lot if you earn about 2000 a day), whilst the most expensive, a Huawei Ascend G300 is 569,000 Sch (about £142) – all with similar enticements as we’d see in the UK.
We had an opportunity to speak to Nora this morning to talk about mobile phone usage in Ogongora. She talked about her story, how PEP (the process Tearfund supports through PAG) has helped her discover new possibilities in life, and that she now runs a small hotel. She bought a mobile phone once she had this business, and this has really helped her communication with her brothers and sisters who live far away (previous communication would have been up to 2 week’s walking). Now she is in a position as a woman leader, she is able to help other (younger) women in the village – helping them to sell items in the market – and she has recently enabled her daughter to complete her studies – and has been able to complete all payments because of PEP… and with the phone.
One of the things that mobile phones have become famous for in African countries is the ability to call ahead to markets and find out the prices (either for buying or selling) before deciding which markets to visit – thus allowing better prices – and the ability to save more money for other plans. Nora doesn’t have the internet on her phone as the 70,000 was hard enough to find. She has to pay for charging on those who provide car batteries for the purpose – around 500 (15p) for a full charge, which lasts only for about 2 days. Because everything is so expensive to use, she’s unable to share the phone with others. The village had tried solar phones which Tearfund had sourced from a company keen to improve technology for those in rural situations, but the solar panel was too small/weak, so they have returned to paying for electricity.
Getting messages around before involved someone going on foot (not even a bicycle) between villages – known as a Mobiliser, which took time (and the messenger usually didn’t feel any urgency to complete his mission). Public health messages came through someone who spoke to the local Pastor to ‘soften things up’, then a government representative would come in. Some have radios, as the batteries are easy to replace and last for 1-2 weeks, so many announcements used to be done on the radio. Posters were placed, sometimes in local languages, but often in English and then translated (many don’t read anyway) – the message would be changed according to the local audience.
Within the villages now, the church leaders will be sent information, given to their congregations – local leaders will be invited to a meeting, and information will also be read out in church services – with an expectation that the message will continue to be spread by word of mouth (networks of networks!). Note also that phones are used more for talking than for texting, again because of the issue of writing/reading literacy levels. Announcements of death (there was a funeral today) used to be made via radio, and are more likely to be made via phone… and today, we chose another Pastor to visit in the afternoon – the visit was easily arranged as both our interpreter and the Pastor have mobile phones.
We asked if they minded visitors coming, and they indicated that they were more than happy as it gave them an opportunity to share their stories, and they are happy to be photographed, as the pictures will “then be seen in America”. We were curious as to why they thought we were American – apparently they don’t but they use the term for anywhere western – partly influenced by films they have seen (although at 1000 per go, this is mostly the youth – who often manage to visit the local centre about once a week – with a TV/media player), Obama has brought America to their attention – and they see football and gospel music on TV.
For this village, as they make their plans as to what they want to prioritise, although we’ve seen 3-4 people with phones, it’s not seen as a priority at all. The priorities for this village (in order) are:
So, tomorrow I hope to talk to Odiirah, our local contact for PAG, as she looks after the communications, has a smart phone, and can tell me more about mobile phone use in the cities – where it’s more common, and where data usage is also growing, with the “kids never off Facebook”… Katie Harrison also says there is a flourishing culture of Ugandan bloggers, but they are all in the cities. We are, however, next to the University of Mass Communication (looks about as big as our guest house!) so I would like to pop round there and find out what’s on their syllabus! Any questions you might want to add about technology use/attitudes, etc in Uganda?
So, this trip was going to be a whizz-bang techno trip, feeding back stories whilst we were in the villages, etc… As you may have noticed this hasn’t happened – I’ve got some more people to talk to about this, and later today, I’ll have set a post for you to read to talk to some of the villages about mobile phones.
Today, I met with Pete Phillips to discuss where we’re going with @bigbible, etc. and, combined with a number of Tweets I’d seen earlier, decided that I would join the Flash Evensong, organised by @artsyhonker (who’d run a similar event on Sunday).
Check out the rest of our boos from #occupyslx
Information had been circulated via Twitter since Sunday afternoon (always with the knowledge that the Cathedral might reopen), with materials available on a website (therefore those coming were asked to either print off, or use their phones for the material). We were welcome, however, to just stand and enjoy the atmosphere (tho I knew I’d be doing some tweeting, etc..) … and it was great to run into a number of people that I often talk to on Twitter but rarely meet face to face… It was great to see how Twitter had brought people together (for an event that @artsyhonker had expected about 10 people at), and to see crowds grow as 30+ singers sang beautifully… although the ‘paps’ were rather disconcerting – they know how to get their picture (yes, push!) … lots of us just stayed up to watch ITV News … but no sign of us I was asked by ‘Classical Music’ magazine – there was a guy in the right place at the right time – whether I thought this was a ‘publicity stunt’ or a service … those of us there definitely felt that it was a service, and Kathryn (@artsyhonker) rationale for creating it was that people aren’t able to go to Evensong in the Cathedral, but faith/worship is clearly so much bigger than the building (see Jhon Cooper’s interview)
“The 1st thing to remember is that the only person who loves change is a baby with a wet nappy.”
This story just caught my eye…
There’s a little, grassroots hashtag going around Twitter this morning called #lovemonday and it deserves your attention (even if you have never tweeted in your life). For those of you in the know, it is a bit like #followfriday but instead of suggesting people others should follow (which is also a lovely thing to do!), you simply select 3 people you follow and tell them what you appreciate about them. Then, rather than the mutual backslapping that often occurs on FollowFriday, those people tell 3 people they follow the same and so on and soon we have an entire Twittersphere full of encouragements! And what better thing to do on a Monday eh?!
Read the full post and post your #lovemonday’s!