The tweet that could cook Twitter’s goose

Perversity being what it is, I think Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter could be the best thing that could happen to the Christchurch Call.

Remember the Christchurch Call, the international effort to curb online hate speech led by Jacinda Ardern after the mosque attacks? Do you recall the enthusiasm with which social media platforms joined international leaders to commit to a better tomorrow and Facebook, Twitter and Google collectively stating they were “resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”?

Last Thursday we had confirmation of what we already knew: The social media platforms were either inept or liars. The Washington-based Center for Countering Digital Hate produced a report showing the platforms had failed to act on Anti-Muslim hate 89 per cent of the time. We can only imagine their failure rate on other forms of hate speech, to say nothing of dangerous disinformation, although the centre has previously identified failures to deal with antisemitism, anti-black racism, misogyny, and anti-vax disinformation.

The centre, using the platforms’ own search tools, identified 530 anti-Muslim posts that had been viewed at least 25 million times and much of the abusive content was easily identifiable. Users were able to adopt hashtags that were overtly anti-Muslim. Posts supporting the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that formed the basis of Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s ‘manifesto’ continue to be carried on the platforms.

So how does Musk’s purchase of Twitter potentially help to rid the world of such poison? Continue reading “The tweet that could cook Twitter’s goose”

A new suit cut from old cloth

B

The public media entity Establishment Board announced last week by broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi is well placed to successfully amalgamate Television New Zealand and RNZ. Sadly, that is all it will do.

The board has a full complement of experienced broadcasters, broadcasting executives, and board members from both existing organisations. It will be chaired by former New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin, who ably led the body that examined a business case for the new entity.

Faafoi says their job will be to “oversee the detailed design of the new entity and the change required to create it”. He also states that the new entity would be built on “the best of Television NZ and Radio NZ” but would be future-focused to meet the challenges of technology changes and global competition.

While they are beavering away, the government will be introducing the legislation that will govern the future organisation. I have no doubt that a draft already exists, given the timetable to have the Bill introduced by mid-year and through all its readings before the end of the year.

This suggests that much of the form of the new organisation will be pre-determined and the Establishment Board will be dealing with internal structures and functional issues. It will be watched over by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage which is charged with providing assistance, and with reporting independently to the minister.

We are witnessing a mechanical process – the merging of two Crown agencies, no more than that. The only unique aspect is an imperative that the public service broadcasting mandate of RNZ is not lost in the re-organisation. The Establishment Board has all the necessary credentials to successfully see through that process.

There is no real aspiration in the announcement and, indeed, in anything we have seen recently on the proposal. There is no sense that the new entity will usher in paradigm change and realise untapped opportunities. Continue reading “A new suit cut from old cloth”

Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine

Atrocities and total war are not pixilated or sanitised. They bring death with unimaginable brutality and obliterate lives with indifference. It is time to stop protecting the New Zealand public from these grim realities of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Our news media post warnings about disturbing images and then obscure them out of a long-held regard for the sensibilities of readers and viewers over portrayal of death. We see shapeless body bags while those lying in the street are given a dignified digital shroud.

Yes, we read and hear descriptions of what the innocent citizens of Ukraine have had to endure at the hands of Russian invaders. However, we are shielded from most graphic detail of what is being done in a mission to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” a democratic nation that posed no defence threat to its neighbour.

How often do we see and hear the phrase “Warning: The following item includes disturbing images including dead bodies” when, in fact, we are left to imagine what the body looks like under its obscuring mantle? Continue reading “Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine”

Low trust in media has underlying cause

Trust me, I think I know when I’m wrong.

For a very long time I have advocated quality journalism as the antidote to declining trust in news media. Three reports last week convince me that doing a better job is not the cure I thought it would be.

Of course, better reporting and analysis will always contribute to improving the regard with which journalists are held by the public. And it can always be done better.

However, a new survey by the Journalism Media and Democracy ((JMaD) centre at AUT and the latest Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer on New Zealand, together with further analysis by the Reuters Institute’s Trust in News project, have led me to conclude that journalism is not the cause of diminished trust but a victim of a deeper malaise. Continue reading “Low trust in media has underlying cause”