Important ruling in Cops vs. Cell Phone Videos

The right to film police in the performance of their public duties in a public space is a “basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment,” a federal appellate court held last week, marking a major victory in a time when arrests for such activities have been on the rise.

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press

This court ruling stems from a 2007 incident in which Simon Glik recorded three police officers arresting a man on the Boston Common. Glik was arrested, his cell phone and a flash drive were confiscated and he was charged with various offenses.

He filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and Boston and this ruling allows his case to proceed.

Cases where law enforcement officers have arrested or confiscated cameras of people, particularly non-journalists, recording events taking place in a public place are becoming alamringly more common.

The court’s ruling in the Glik case hopefully may temper the trend. It wrote:

“It is firmly established that the First Amendment’s aegis extends further
than the text’s proscription on laws ‘abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press,’ and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and
dissemination of information,” the court said. “The filming of government
officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers
performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles.
Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be
disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting
and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.'”

This right to gather and disseminate news is not one that belongs solely to
the media, a particularly important principle in this modern era of the news
industry, when “changes in technology and society have made the lines between
private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw,” the court said.

Mike Masnick writing in TechDirt said: “While this case isn’t over yet, it’s still a huge victory for those arrested by police for filming them in action. It suggests such people can bring charges against the police for civil rights violations in taking away their First Amendment rights. A tremendous ruling all around.”

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A Google+ discussion about news comments

Google+ will undoubtedly have many impacts on the journalism uses of Social Media. I’m looking forward to reading what the other contributors to the August edition of the Carnival of Journalism muse about.

One of the more interesting issues that has been rekindled is over the use of real names vs “handles” or users names or pseudonyms.

Google’s rigid requirement of real names … it really doesn’t have a “user name” … and the fact that whatever account name is used is the one used for all other Google products has sparked a tremendous amount of debate.

While a social media communities and article comment areas are not exactly the same thing, I think there are threads and implications in this debate for news organizations, their web sites and their commenters.

Prior to Google+’s launch, there had been a growing chorus against anonymity for comments on news sites. Long-time blogger and Internet figure Anil Dash may have come up with the best headline: IF YOUR WEBSITE’S FULL OF ASSHOLES, IT’S YOUR FAULT.

In an excellent follow up post, he said:

“This isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing — many great sites can, and do, allow vigorously dissenting or unpopular views, from anonymous or pseudonymous commenters, without degenerating into cesspools of unkindness. But if a site allows racist or sexist or hateful comments to persist in its conversations, … then they’re not merely giving a home to an awful conversation. Instead, that site owner is signifying to members of the groups being attacked that they would rather profit from the page views of the people leaving those comments than make a welcoming, inclusive space for the people being attacked.

Dash separates anonymous comments and the use of pseudonyms from the problem of hateful speech and trollish behavior. Many do not.

Some sites have switched to requiring Facebook authentication to comments, some are using Facebook’s commenting system, and the voices of editors and journalists and others railing against acerbic anonymous comments have grown louder.

Whether it was meant to include article comments or not, the debate over real names on Google+ has brought some focused, thoughtful discussion around the subject.

Writing in Gizmodo yesterday, Derek Powazk said:

I think we’re witnessing a fascinating shift in online culture. The era of hacker handles is over. We’ve grown out of it … The Internet is not a second life anymore, it’s your first one. You don’t slip into a pseudonym when you use the phone, why should you be someone else online? Hacker handles were training wheels, and they’re off the bike now whether you like it or not.

Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake has a different take:

Pseudonyms are not in themselves harmful. Yes, they can be used for harm, as when people use them for anonymous, slanderous attacks, trolling, etc., but in the vast majority of cases there is no harm done. Importantly, they can serve to protect vulnerable groups. There’s even a comprehensive list of people harmed by Real Names policies. In the cases where pseudonyms are being abused, it is the harm that should be stopped, not the pseudonyms.

She says strong moderation is the solution to keeping trolls in check.

Danah Boyd has weighed in with a couple of blogs posts, but about trolls, she said this:

… a “real names” policy doesn’t stop an unrepentant troll; it’s just another hurdle that the troll will love mounting. In my work with teens, I see textual abuse (“bullying”) every day among people who know exactly who each other is on Facebook. The identities of many trolls are known. But that doesn’t solve the problem. What matters is how the social situation is configured, the norms about what’s appropriate, and the mechanisms by which people can regulate them (through social shaming and/or technical intervention). A culture where people can build reputation through their online presence (whether “real” names or pseudonyms) goes a long way in combating trolls …

I don’t expect this debate to end soon.

I do know wresting with trolls is demanding and not what many journalists consider part of journalism.

I’m hopeful that some of the suggestions and guidelines recommended by Joy Mayer get fully discussed by editors and newsrooms and in a Google+ circle for that matter.

Some more links for your consideration are below:

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Newsrooms that say they are succeeding at the ‘two-way street’ are mostly lying

new post from me at GigaOM: “Memo to newspapers: The future of media is a two-way street” tip @mediagazerWed Aug 17 22:17:07 via TweetDeck

Even if newsrooms don’t want to adopt Joy Mayer’s value statements listed below, this should be something newsrooms are discussing. Many journalists are still very uncomfortable with the “two-way street” idea. Mayer has spent a year on a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship doing research and producing guidance on audience engagement.

The value statements from her latest report:

Our core audience feels a connection with us.

We actively reach beyond our core audience.

We appear to be and actually are accessible, as a newsroom
and as individual journalists.

Individual community members feel invited into our processes and products
and encouraged to help shape our agenda.

We find ways to listen to and be in continual conversation with our community.

We continually alter what we cover, and how, based on what the audience
responds to.

It is easy for community members to share their expertise and experiences,
and we value their contributions.

We amplify community voices besides our own.

We invest in our community and are seen as a community resource.

Our content reaches the audience where, when and how it’s most useful
or meaningful.

There are a variety of ways users can act on, share and react to our news
and information.

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10 Years of Instapundit

A brief history of Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog and blogging. Reynolds started his blog a decade ago this


Image by jacklail via Flickr

week, but it was a few weeks later when his blog caught national and international attention in the 9/11 terrorists attacks.

He has built a large and loyal audience based on his sharp curation and commentary on everything from Fed monetary policy to the best gas grills. That he has maintained a prodigious daily output of tidbits, links, news and opinion for a decade is nothing short of remarkable.

Reynolds has also inspired and encouraged hundreds of others to take up blogging. Much like his personality, he understates his accomplishments in the video above.

Congratulations on passing a milestone worth noting and what will he be saying on the 20th?

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Dot matrix display of the Williams pinball gam...

Image via Wikipedia

The Redding Record Searchlight in California has launched a beta gamification or “game dynamics” project that aims to improve the quality of conversation on its newspaper-dot-com site.

It includes badges, points, a beefed up profile and a “leaderboard.”

Editor Silas Lyons writes:

I’m particularly excited about some changes to the comment section.
We all know comments on the Internet can get out of hand, and is no exception. In an effort to deal with this, many other
website publishers have tried eliminating comment sections, charging for
comments, and the like. There may be a place for that, but we believe
in our readers and think a more collaborative approach may work. We’ll
still moderate comments and play enforcer when needed, but here are some
key changes you’ll see:

  • A “Mark insightful” button to the left of every comment;
  • A count of the number of times each comment has been marked “insightful”
  • A small badge next to the names of users who have earned sufficient
    “insightful” votes from the community. The higher the number displayed,
    the greater that person’s reputation.

You have to be a registered user of the site and logged in to see the new features. It’s similar to some of the things Huffington Post and others are doing.

Will this improve engagement and conversation? It’s a test other E.W. Scripps sites, including The Knoxville News Sentinel, are watching.

As you see from the links below, the topic of gamification has as many  hot buttons, bells and whistles, and flashing lights as a pinball machine.

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There’s a 100 million things you could say about this

Obviously Arianna Huffington views comments as an asset to Huffington Post. The site just passed its 100 millionth comment and averages 175,000 a day.

Quick show of hands. How many newspaper editors see comments as an asset of their websites? I thought so.

Despite whatever one thinks about Arianna Huffington as a journalist; one thing’s certain: Huffington Post has a better handle on how to manage and grow comments than nearly all newspapers in America.

Huffington Post uses a combination of humans and technology to manage the dialy deluge of 175,000 comments:

Although moderation goes a long way toward ensuring the quality of the comments, HuffPo also does an excellent job of surfacing the remarks that are most relevant to individual readers. If you connect to using your Facebook or Twitter login, you’ll see comments posted by people in your network above regular comments. This allows for high-frequency group debate amid the broader public conversation.

The rest of the comments are displayed not chronologically, but ordered by popularity and a user’s commenting history.

Recognition is another important factor, says Huffington. Readers can earn badges and privileges (such as the ability to author posts using rich text) for sharing and commenting on content. Soon, Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry says, users will be able to award each other badges to recognize commenters who are funny (“LOL” badge) and insightful (“pundit” badge). Leaderboards will also show commenters that are worth following.

There are some tips in the interview on why comments work better on HuffPo than on news sites. Why are we not seeing more and larger similar efforts at news sites?

Bonus post. The man wants your real name if you want to post comments or the “abuse of power” theory of requiring real names online. An interesting take on an old argument.

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