Tortoise Soup

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Tag: youtube

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?

How To Go Online Hunting – Part I

I was having breakfast this morning and decided to watch some short YouTube videos. Harmless, right? Now by trying to avoid the television, by limiting myself to some short clips, I ended up doing essentially the same thing. This is a slippery slope with YouTube, you go to watch one video and then the all-knowing side bar recommends other videos. Before you know it, four hours have passed. Whether it be DIY style videos, music video clips, or adorable animals, this morning YouTube seduced me with Jenna Marbles’ whimsical vlog on life.

The first time I was introduced to Marbles was through a shared Facebook link a few years ago to a video called “How to trick people into thinking that you’re good looking”. But today I went past just watching a short shared video and instead I sat and watched her channel much like regular television (although with less advertisements). And whilst watching this, I broke the golden rule of the Internet, and scrolled down to the comments (see: Greg Jericho’s “Never Read the Comments”), and read some of the extensive battles between viewers.

What’s interesting in the comments above is how the first is something unnecessarily offensive against Marbles, either her appearance or her content, and then there’s a stream of “fights between commenters on who is the more incompetent person” (Jericho) which veers away from the initial comment. Marbles herself does not engage with this commentary but she doesn’t seem to moderate it either. Most of these comments are potentially defamatory, and this style of online communication has most recently been categorised as trolling.

Now, I’m going to go off into a linguistic spin-off into what exactly is a troll? If we take the morpheme ‘troll-’, then we see quite an interesting evolution. Mark Forsyth, on his blog Inky Fool, explains that:

The verb troller first appears in Medieval French. It meant going out hunting without having any specific animal in mind. 

From then on the OED provides more than 20 definitions of ‘troll-’: to walk in the streets in search of a sexual encounter as a homosexual; to move around; to turn over in one’s mind; to move the tongue incessantly (of speech); and, the list goes on. Our Scandinavian understanding of the mythical, mindless, giant only became adopted into English (from Norse) in the mid-19th century.

Ancient troll funny junk

But what about Internet trolls? Troll in modern computer language came around in the 1990s as posts that deliberately try to provoke an angry response (see Jason Wilson’s “Same as it ever was”). Our 21st century understanding has evolved into anybody that publishes abusive or offensive commentary online. And that’s very broad. To some, Jenna Marbles’ videos are offensive, as they ridicule a plethora of personalities and tastes in the name of comedy and entertainment. For example, “How To Dance Like A White Girl” can be deemed as sexist and racist and Marbles even includes a small disclaimer at the start: “I’m making fun of me as much as I’m making fun of you”, which acknowledges that some people may find this offensive. Does this make Marbles a troll or a comedian? And then there’s the barrage of comments about the video being racist, as well as offensive claims targeted at Marbles — such as Marbles is “dumbing down America” — followed with a barrage of fights between commentators.

Are the initial offensive commentators being trolls or sharing their opinion in a public forum? Are the responders to these comments trolls or active participants in a democratic discussion, simply using unpleasant jargon? Is offense in the eye of the beholder? Maybe we need to return trolls to the Scandinavians to understand a troll as someone who uses their anonymity (mythical) to be mindless? Or better yet combine it with Medieval France:

Troll: a person that anonymously offends or insults without a specific target in mind. In other words, online hunting.

And on top of this 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)?

Let me know where you think the responsibility lies in the poll or comments below. And I’ll come back with Part II as my next post to discuss this.