Trafigura, Twitter and the free journalist

Posted on October 21, 2009

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The whole Trafigura affair (summarised in Trafigura vs. the Guardian – the beginning) raises huge questions on freedom of speech, the right to report and whether things should in fact be kept out of the public domain.

But what I find most interesting is this: the people have the power. The web has the power. Tweet one message to your followers and you could potentially reach millions. Where does this put journalists?

In this case, the public were a huge help – they were the detectives, they solved the crime, they dug out what Carter-Ruck so clearly wanted hidden. The potential of millions is far greater than that of one.

But then consider the other side. If the people can help, they can also hold you accountable. Take the now infamous piece of “journalism” written by Jan Moir. Her name hit the top of Twitter trending topics almost as soon as she wrote it (and Charlie Brooker’s swift response sums up what most of us probably thought about the issue).

A Twitter backlash against the article prompted over 22,000 complaints to the PCC, and though she claims it was a “heavily orchestrated campaign”, was it really?

On the one hand, a lot of people would not have even known about the article if it wasn’t for Twitter. But nobody forced those people to complain. Nobody took over their computers and submitted an automated response. Nobody said “let’s just all complain for the fun of it”.

Yes, Stephen Fry (amongst others) offered a little encouragement, but the article was so downright offensive that it would be ignorant to claim that people are puppets, complaining just because someone said so.

Though most journalists probably won’t write anything quite so offensive, the point remains – the public are watching. Whether it’s to dig out information we should know or to respond to “information” presented by Daily Mail types, they’re watching. And they’re not going to hold back on telling us all about it.

 

Reaching millions with one click - a twitter network

Reaching millions with one click - a twitter network

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