I don’t want to start a panic, but I do wonder whether Covid is making people less able to think properly. I’m not talking about those poor individuals who have actually had the disease. I’m talking about (almost) everyone.
Earlier this month, Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the decision to ban someone from its site. The “someone” in question happened to be Donald Trump, but that has no bearing on this article. I want to examine the debate that rages over the principle of social media sites being able to ban anyone at all from their platforms.
In Hollywood, there is a story-writing guru, Robert McKee. After listening to one of his talks, many years ago, I gained the abiding impression that the most powerful story endings are those that you didn’t see coming and yet, with hindsight, the narrative had been building to that all along. One of McKee’s favourite examples – and mine – is Casablanca.
BBC’s Line of Duty cried out for an ending of such proportions. After all, this latest series had been deemed important enough to feature in news broadcasts. (And not just the BBC News. If you haven’t seen the final episode yet, stay away from today’s newsstands: several of the papers have a prime plot point plastered all over their front pages.)
But the writer, Jed Mercurio, seemed to have long ago abandoned any attempt at such a climax.Read more
This weekend, the professional football community in the UK will boycott social media. The “gesture”, initiated by the anti-racism charity, Kick It Out, and others, is a call to “those with power [within social media] … to do more and to act faster … to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls”. At the time of writing, British rugby and British cricket has announced that they will join the boycott.
I wish them all luck. Something is needed to deliver major change.
A good place to start might be improved clarity around the nature of social media and the responsibility its providers take for the words and images that appear on their forums. At the moment, much of the thinking is confused and confusing.Read more
Yesterday, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps led the daily Downing Street press conference with news of new transport infrastructure to help us in the current crisis and beyond. But the mainstream media used up all of their questions to ask about the decision by the Prime Minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings, to isolate himself and his family in Durham, rather than in London, when his wife fell ill with Covid-19.Read more
There are widespread calls to regulate social media. Hardly a day goes by without some new outrage which eclipses what we have seen already. One of the great problems for anyone wishing to put a stop to the abuse is that social media users can easily make themselves anonymous. If they are ejected from a platform, they can re-enrol under a new identity. All it takes to open an account on a platform is an email address. And all it takes to get an email address is … absolutely nothing at all.Read more
A few weeks ago, I spoke at an international conference on regulation. One of my fellow panellists told me, as we took our seats, that he was against regulation. I rubbed my hands with glee in anticipation that sparks would soon begin to fly. Sadly, the only sparks were the evidence of us getting on like a house on fire. He wasn’t against regulation; it was just bad regulation that he couldn’t tolerate. Me too.Read more
From working as an independent expert witness, I know only too well that it is not unusual to find one’s client acting as though nothing the opposing party says can ever be believed. As a mediator, I have seen this attitude taken by both sides simultaneously. Sometimes in a dispute, both sides are inveterate liars. But quite often I would see two parties who were both incapable of seeing that their opponent’s point of view was not built (entirely) on falsehood. It seems that is where we are now with Brexit.Read more