Tortoise Soup

A wordy kind of blog

Tag: Facebook

How To Go Online Hunting – Part II

Part I of this post discussed Jenna Marbles’ YouTube channel and its comments, which led to understanding the term ‘troll’ as akin to online hunting. It ended with the afterthought of:

…if the content that the troll publishes is problematic and potentially defamatory, who is truly responsible for it: the commentator (i.e. Full Natty Brah); the channel owner (Jenna Marbles); or, the platform owner (YouTube/Google)?

As the owner of her video, if Jenna Marbles uploads a video that is found to be defamatory, then she is the owner and would be liable, much the same way that the owner of a Tweet that is defamatory: see Mickle v Farley (2013), where Farley had been ordered to pay for damages for defamatory tweets and Facebook posts in NSW. In Greg Jericho’s article he outlines that comments left on news organisations’ websites are essentially their responsibility. Affiliated to this is Clarke v Nationwide News (2012), where it was found that a party is liable as a publisher for comments on their Facebook page. So in this sense Jenna Marbles is responsible for her channel. But this becomes murky, as her channel is hosted on a third-party platform.

Is this platform also responsible for any defamatory or vilifying content published? In other words, can YouTube be sued for what Full Natty Brah publishes, can Twitter be held accountable for its users’ tweets? I struggled to find examples involving YouTube in legal cases in Australia, so I’ve looked to Facebook and Twitter in this post (however Google’s Brazil chief was arrested in September 2012 for refusing to remove two videos on YouTube that allegedly defamed an election candidate), if anyone does know of any more examples, do let me know in the comments section.

Suing TwitterIn 2012, Joshua Meggitt was defamed on Twitter, and the owner of the tweet paid for damages privately. After which, Meggitt set out to sue Twitter itself, but this has not reached court (see: Bernard Keane’s quirky list of “Who sued Twitter? The list so far”). Peter Black sets out in his article that under current Australian law Twitter and Facebook could be held liable for posts made by their users. So if the owner of the Facebook page can be held liable and Facebook itself can be held liable, could we assume in the same vein that the owner of the YouTube channel and YouTube itself can be held liable?

YouTube’s Terms of Service (ToS) states: “YouTube reserves the right to remove Content without prior notice”. The Community Guidelines outline the type of behaviour that YouTube does not tolerate, which would lead to being banned from the site. With this type of control of your content, surely this presents a form of awareness and responsibility for this content published on their platform? YouTube attempts to absolve itself of this responsibility in section 5 and 6 of the ToS, but a ToS is not always legally binding.

This area of jurisprudence is in its early stages and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the following decade. Currently, it seems that if a troll leaves a defamatory or vilifying comment, all parties (the commentator, channel owner and platform) are possibly liable. If everyone is possibly liable, then everyone has the responsibility to moderate and regulate. Slaying the Troll - Bit Social MediaJericho’s article proposes the New York Times model of facing “online toxicity” by encouraging better comments and good commentary through clear incentives and moderation policy, as well as being active in shaping the discussion. But is this form of imposed self-censorship problematic? Are we giving these platforms the power to then construct our rhetoric? Are we falling for the moral panic of the troll?

Using Jason Wilson’s article, I would suggest that perhaps trolls are being turned into modern-day “folk devils”, who are defined as “presenting an existential threat to social order”. Wilson goes on to say that these folk devils cause moral panic which generates “consent among the governed to extend state power”. I would go even further and propose that this is part of the “’mean world’ syndrome” discussed by Lievrouw, whereby the Internet is proposed as a site of serious risk to individuals and the established order, which justifies the expansion of surveillance and government power over the individual. This Orwellian style powerplay is an area of concern for the future in developing a global online public sphere that is free to debate all ideas versus protecting the vulnerable from vilifying or defamatory content.

Only time can tell how these ideas will unfold with the ever-changing Internet. In the meantime, I’d love to read what everyone thinks about trying to moderate or control online hunting?


Officially Friends?

Recently, a colleague and I began to form a friendship, and slowly this friendship started to grow outside of the work arena. However, rather than exchanging phone numbers and maintaining communication through this network, the relationship was officiated through very different platforms. First we followed each other on Instagram; then became Facebook Friends; then SnapChat; and after this we decided to exchange phone numbers. This evolution of our friendship was a type of ‘social grooming’, a modern day ‘social etiquette’ of revealing yourself in an ordered manner. It is a type of courtship amongst the younger generation; a slow unveiling of introducing your social media identity before allowing another entry into your private space.


Is this the new 21st century friendship formation? boyd and Ellison (2008) differentiate between everyday “friends” and Friends, which is capitalised, as Friends on social network systems. The latter Friends requires a formal “bi-directional confirmation for Friendship”, as an intent to be connected via a specific network. This connection could mean a way to see inside your “online representation of self”. For example, once my colleague and I confirmed our Instagram and Facebook Friendship we agreed to allow each other to see what visual way we filter / represent our day-to-day life, what content we share or like and opened a direct messaging portal.

boyd and Ellison’s essay focuses on the ‘showcasing’ abilities of social networks, rather than the content that is shared across these networks. Whilst this may have been the case during publication in 2008, this visibility element has shifted to being more focused on the content that you share, such as images, videos, articles, statuses…etc. While the organisation of the online community has shifted, the creation and formulation of the ‘online representation of self’ has grown stronger, with growing pressures tomeme i love me appear a certain way, to filter a perception of the self. boyd and Ellison discussed how social network sites were constructed as ‘egocentric’ networks, with the “individual at the centre of the community”. We create a social media space to represent a desired perception of ourselves, through a selective and filtered online identity.

Which leads me to ask if there is any semantic shift in the way we understand the term ‘friend’ since social network sites became a norm in our everyday lives? If there is a need to differentiate friend and Friend, and the line between online and offline blurs, what happens to our understanding of friendship? In 2011, Sherry Turkle argued a cultural tolerance for being ‘alone together’, where the intimacy of friendship is managed on a friendship-on-demand model. There is an illusion of companionship, an illusion of a two-way social dynamic relationship. When observing the emotional validation and importance of the ‘Like it’ button when a status is put up, we can see how we are managing this friendship model through a validation of impressions, and of how many likes. Take for instance the concept of specific hashtags that exist to get you more ‘friends’ (followers), for example #followback on Twitter or #tagsforlikes on Instagram. These are some of the most popular hashtags, which brings us back to Turkle’s ideas that the dynamic on social networks are an illusion. Our performance is managed through the number of likes or followers in order to make us feel validated, but instead we are ‘alone together’.

meme friend

As my colleague and I add each other on Facebook, we joke that we are now officiated, because we are ‘Facebook official’. A common joke poking at the farcical level of meaning placed into relationships on social media. It is important to differentiate between the values and relations we expect from a friend and those of an acquaintance sustained via the social media channel as a Friend. Academics and social scientists have gone into depth into the ethical concerns of ‘virtual’ friendships and the loss of necessary emotional intimacy, which is partially summarised by Joseph Kahn here. But perhaps it’s a semantic shift that needs to be appropriated. Many friendships are commonly supplemented via an online element, such as emails or social media, some (such as long distance) are maintained with greater ease this way; and others are those who are acquaintances or former friends, such as old school friends, who are retained here, perhaps for nostalgic reasons or prying curiosity.

What do you think, is there a difference between Friend and friend? Let me know in your comments below.