I have been enjoying reading end of year reviews this week but I will not be doing that here. I have written over 55,000 words on this blog over the year and it is just not feasible (nor desirable) to go there now. Instead, all of my columns will be published as an ebook with various extra material. It’s something I’m doing for myself as I assess the year, my year, and what the future holds but I’m publishing it because as a blogger, that’s what we do.
What then is my focus of the week?
I want to request that you pay attention to change.
For my local readers if not everyone, Jo Yeates, the estate agent whose body was found on Christmas Day, will be a familiar name. Speculation over details of pizzas, bottles of cider and characters seen leaving her flat has been rife on Twitter. Today the discussion was more about contempt of court.
@davidelstone was the person who drew my attention with some detail about this in his blog that explains that writing a tweet is publishing. Now, to me publishing is a term I use loosely. Coming from academia, publishing means printed by someone who matters. As such while I refer to publishing an ebook, a little voice in my head is sneering at my use of a word that suggests I’m performing anything other than an exercise in vanity.
But if that’s not the case legally is a post on a forum publishing? So much of what I say is context significant and as such what I say on Facebook (moderately private) differs greatly from what I’d say on Twitter (very public) and yet, my posts on a certain forum which is so public that certain posts are printed in an affiliated magazine, I say exactly what I think and feel. My assumption is that everything is read within the context of forum rules but what if a crime were to occur and the threads held up in court?
I doubt it will ever happen but then who’d have thought voicing opinions on Twitter could land you in trouble (assuming the contempt of court rumour is accurate)?
Something else that caught my eye today was a story in my Muck Rack Daily newsletter. Malcom Moore of The Telegraph pointed out amidst details of the trending topic of Skype that the Chinese Government had made using the service available.
Infringement on civil liberties in the East may not seem significant to everyday lives in the UK but I’d argue that unless information platforms can be shared by all (at least those with the intelligence to operate them, lets not start suggesting stupid people have much to contribute*) then compromises compromise us all.
And really what is the difference between what the Chinese are doing and what the British court system might do? To play absolute Devil’s advocate arguably by baning certain behaviour, the Chinese Government are protecting their citizens from the shades of grey in the UK. A Chinese citizen knows what they can and cannot do while yours truly does not. I don’t wish to speculate on the case but if I did, I wouldn’t know where the rules lay.
So to the title of this column; rules change fast. In Malaysia there have been occasions where civil society has only become aware of religious laws being passed upon their enforcement, namely when Muslim women were hauled away from a beauty contest and people being made aware of a fatwa that made it a sin for Muslim women to participate in beauty contests.
We aren’t living in Malaysia of course but as a former British colony, their legal structure isn’t so different to ours. Think about it, we don’t even have a constitution. Our laws are made on precedence (hence the many novel laws that are still in place until they are overturned).
I’m no legal expert and more significantly I’m not paranoid. While I’m no James Bond, doing fieldwork in the Far East has required certain degree of laissez faire attitude for authority. My point is not that we ought to unduly concern ourselves with changing laws but that we should nonetheless pay heed to them. See what gets said about Twitter as a publishing platform and follow the development in a lateral way. Learn a little about liberty across the globe and appreciate the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben; With great power, comes great responsibility.
When it comes to the tools and toys of modern life, don’t be passive; be aware.
And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year!
* See, context! I’m saying that tongue in cheek. Mostly. Ok, I admit it, I don’t think stupid people should be allowed to use the internet.