Category: Communication Rights

I Got Algorithm

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How to prevent social networks from damaging the well-being of young people?

Amid a plethora of writings on the impact of social media on young people, a vital issue has surfaced.

In “The Guardian view on mental health online: protect the vulnerable” (28 January 2019), the newspaper publicises the plight of depressed teens whose vulnerability is increased by insensitive or damaging material online. The article challenges the complacency of social media companies, urging governments to take action to hold them responsible:

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Mind your language!

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Masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral?

For years, the English have avoided saying “he” or “she” by replacing it with “they”. Called the singular “they”, it occurs in sentences such as:

“Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?”

“Who thinks they can solve the problem?”

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Data protection and googol fines

Google is a creative spelling of googol, a number equal to 10100 and meaning any unimaginable figure.
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Data privacy, also called information privacy, is about what data in a computer system can be shared with third parties.

Protection laws give individuals rights over their data, imposing rules on the way in which companies and governments use data, and establishing regulators to enforce the laws. Protecting privacy in the digital age is fundamental to effective governance, but few countries have taken it as seriously as they should. In many, there is a lack of regulatory and legal frameworks and in others poor implementation and enforcement.

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Building trust in a fragmented world

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Genuine communication is all about creating relationships and building trust.

When two or more people meet in person, a conversation or sharing of experiences leaves a mark that outlasts the ephemeral impact of digital communications. When members of a community listen to each other’s views and opinions, discuss them and move forward together, they gain greater understanding and may even shift their positions. It takes time. It takes work.

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What makes great journalism? On foreign correspondents and terror

Photo: © Reuters / Baz Rather

Yet another terrorist act played out in Nairobi just two weeks into 2019. Live footage on local television captured scenes of security personnel leading visibly terrified occupants to safety, survivors receiving first aid and nearby crowds ducking for cover at the sound of each explosion. The footage captured security forces ushering foreign journalists closer to the action at the same time as they blocked entry for local journalists. Viewers unwittingly eavesdropped into conversations between local journalists pleading to the security personnel to allow them passage into the building just as they had for their foreign counterparts.

Read more “What makes great journalism? On foreign correspondents and terror”

Hunger for truth games

Margaret Sullivan: ‘It’s time for the media to turn off the microphone when it comes to Kellyanne Conway.’ (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)


Media wars can easily get personal. Today the name of the game is Showtime! Ratings trump sober facts and inconvenient truths. Fox News offers foxy entertainment; The New York Post offers sensationalism; the gutter press epitomised by the likes of the UK’s The Daily Mail and the German tabloid Bild Zeitung have been known to peddle downright lies. And in the digital era, every society is rife with rumour, innuendo, and alternative facts – no more so than in the USA. Read more “Hunger for truth games”

Time for a communication revolution from below!

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Sobering words for those who still believe that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the panacea for the world’s ills. In “Developing Countries Losing Out To Digital Giants” (IPS News, 17 October 2018), Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury write:

“In 2015, the top three big US technology firms had average market capitalization of more than $400 billion, compared to $200 billion in China, $123 billion in other Asian countries, $69 billion in Europe and $66 billion in Africa. Apple recently became the first company in the world to be valued at more than $1 trillion, matching the combined economic output of Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Read more “Time for a communication revolution from below!”

Digital distractions

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Communication used to be singular. A letter, a newspaper, a radio or television program. It was a largely one-way, edited version of certain parts of reality. Today, communications are plural: a non-stop barrage of texts, sounds, and images from all directions and at all times. Public space has been whittled away by iPads and iPhones, privacy is at a premium, and digital disturbance (what used to be called static) is everywhere.
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WhatsApp calls time on WhatsApp

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Social media are accused of bringing about the demise of traditional journalism. They are used to tar news stories with the brush of “fake news” as loud-mouthed politicians eagerly point the finger at what they deem to be critical or unfavourable coverage. Read more “WhatsApp calls time on WhatsApp”

Integrity in news coverage

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The world’s leading newspapers are struggling to maintain their place as voices of conscience in society when via social media everyone is free to express alternative views and opinions. Of course, having a public voice carries with it the responsibility to use it wisely, to present information and opinions that are fair and balanced. Many newspapers do so, while others focus on the biases of their owners or of political parties. Today, in the face of myriad sources of information, the question of credibility has never been more urgent. Read more “Integrity in news coverage”

When media, politics and sexual violence collide

How media report on sexual violence when political interests are at play is a litmus test for how serious they are about professional ethics.

Take the case of the American jurist Brett Kavanaugh’s highly publicised hearing for justice of the US Supreme Court that took place on September 27 before the American senate judiciary committee. News audiences saw, read and heard more of different versions of activist journalism and less of balanced narratives needed to shape informed opinions. Read more “When media, politics and sexual violence collide”

‘Fake news’ is undermining Brazilian rights

Photo: Brazil Wire

During Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85), the people’s ability to exercise some of their most fundamental human rights was severely curtailed. In addition to engaging in torture, extrajudicial killings, and repression against opposition groups, the successive military governments that governed Brazil during this period relentlessly restricted freedom of expression, access to public information, and controlled the majority of media outlets. Read more “‘Fake news’ is undermining Brazilian rights”

Beware propaganda from the wireless industry

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There has always been a suspicion that radio waves do more harm than good. With the arrival of the Internet of Things – wireless computing devices embedded in such everyday objects as fridges, washing machines and coffee makers – the scenario easily slips into one of doomsday. So the global telecommunications industry (worth trillions) needs to persuade its customers that any harmful impacts are negligible in comparison with the benefits.
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Media bread and circuses

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On 7 September 2018, former President Obama delivered a pointed critique of the Trump presidency. Speaking to students at the University of Illinois, he urged political awareness and action, saying:

“When there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, Read more “Media bread and circuses”

Genocide in the news: On media elitism and racism

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Photo: Joseph Anson/unsplash.com

Why do some genocides make the news and others hardly? Let me rephrase: Why do international news media give grossly disproportionate attention to different yet similarly grave ‘deliberate and systematic destructions of a racial, political, or cultural group’ (Miriam-Webster definition)? Or, why are African genocides (and other news events) marginalized by the international media, to echo communication rights scholar Michael Traber’s observation made almost a quarter century ago? Read more “Genocide in the news: On media elitism and racism”

When did you last take a break from social…

Photo: FotoHelin

According to a 2018 research report from the Pew Research Centre on trends in social media use in the United States, 74% of Facebook users in that country visited the platform at least once a day, and 51% did so several times a day. The numbers are similar for those using Snapchat (63% once a day; 49% several times a day) and Instagram (60% once a day; 38% several times a day). Read more “When did you last take a break from social media?”

Protecting privacy in a world of digital communications

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“New technologies will enable high levels of social control at a reasonable cost. Governments will be able to selectively censor topics and behaviors to allow information for economically productive activities to flow freely, while curbing political discussions that might damage the regime.China’s so-called Great Firewall provides an early demonstration of this kind of selective censorship.”

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