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COMMENT is WACC’s take on the rapidly changing world of communications and social media. The aim is to highlight topics that are of more than passing interest and likely to have a positive or negative impact on people’s lives. Topics may be political, social, economic or cultural in scope. Readers are invited to comment on COMMENT and to express their own views – which will be monitored only to prevent derogatory or offensive remarks. Topics include communication rights and wrongs, shrinking communication spaces, traditional and social media, the Internet of Things, and anything else that grabs our attention!

Latest posts

 


Ban books, ban people

19/08/19 | (0) Comments |

 “For the past twenty years, the main issue restricting public debate in terms of Turkish laws has been the prosecution and imprisonment of journalists, writers and intellectuals on the grounds that they contribute to violence and terrorism.”

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From manufacturing consent to manufacturing consensus

12/08/19 | (0) Comments |

An influential book on communications in the 1980s was Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Communication, by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. It proposed a “propaganda model” as a way of understanding how the mass media system intersected with the U.S. economy, political system, and mobilising support for the special interests dominating state and corporate activity.

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It’s vital to be able to “read” social media

06/08/19 | (0) Comments |

In an era when misinformation and “fake news” abound on social media, it is important to understand where people get their news.

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Big data’s big brother: Real-time data processing

29/07/19 | (0) Comments |

Walk around any city and your face will be caught on camera and might even be added to a facial-recognition database. That data can now be processed in real-time. Regulations about how it can be used are minimal and generally weak.

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“Democracy, as we know it, is about to die…”

22/07/19 | (0) Comments |

There was a mantra among communities and businesses when foreign goods and huge chain stores started crowding out small, local operations. “Buy local” was the cry.

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Civil rights and the climate crisis

15/07/19 | (0) Comments |

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, writes that the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.

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Short-sighted policies for short-term gain

08/07/19 | (0) Comments |

Accessibility and affordability are watchwords of the communication rights movement. Yet when it comes to digital access, governments have still not got their act together.

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A voluntary way of holding social media to account

01/07/19 | (0) Comments |

Article 19 – the international freedom of expression organization – has proposed creating Social Media Councils (SMCs) as a way of moderating content on social media based on a “multi-stakeholder accountability mechanism”.


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Unfriendly-fire: Media freedom under threat

24/06/19 | (0) Comments |

“Elected leaders in many democracies, who should be press freedom’s staunchest defenders, have made explicit attempts to silence critical media voices and strengthen outlets that serve up favorable coverage. The trend is linked to a global decline in democracy itself: The erosion of press freedom is both a symptom of and a contributor to the breakdown of other democratic institutions and principles, a fact that makes it especially alarming.”

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Internet governance should work towards mechanisms to reinvigorate independent journalism

17/06/19 | (0) Comments |

A free and independent media sector is one of the cornerstones of what it means for a country to be a liberal democracy. The emergence of the Internet was initially received with much optimism as there was an expectation that it would help democratize media systems, allowing “citizens to report news, expose wrongdoing, express opinions, mobilize protest, monitor elections, scrutinize government, deepen participation, and expand the horizons of freedom."

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True public service media to the rescue

10/06/19 | (0) Comments |

Every ten years or so the BBC comes in for criticism for being too partial or too impartial.

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World Wide Web or webs of intrigue?

03/06/19 | (0) Comments |

In its 2019 report, the Internet Society asks whether the Internet economy is consolidating and, if it is, what the implications might be.

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Seeing and hearing people who matter

27/05/19 | (0) Comments |

It is more and more evident that communication and information issues are intrinsically connected to questions of sustainable development and human dignity.

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Support for local media

20/05/19 | (0) Comments |

Subscribers to The Guardian in the UK recently received a message of appreciation from the Editor-in-Chief, Katherine Viner. She announced that after a three-year “turnaround” strategy the newspaper had hit its goal of breaking even – making a small profit that has been ploughed back into supporting their journalism.

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Digital vulnerability and global justice

13/05/19 | (0) Comments |

As with every new technological innovation, there are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, benefits and risks.

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Stand up for press freedom worldwide!

29/04/19 | (0) Comments |

It’s a more clandestine and dangerous world when journalists can be threatened with violence, detention, and death for doing their job.

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Freedom of the press in an age of anxiety

23/04/19 | (0) Comments |

The UK Foreign Secretary has appointed international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to act as a special envoy on media freedom. She will also chair a high-level panel of legal experts on the issue.

 

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Instalike vs. Instahate

15/04/19 | (0) Comments |

In the “good old days” of traditional media, there were gatekeepers whose task was to apply professional and ethical standards to content. In addition, government and public entities established print and broadcast regulations that were independently monitored to ensure compliance.

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Why are Indigenous and minority languages important in today’s world?

08/04/19 | (0) Comments |

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages in order to raise awareness about the importance of linguistic diversity in relation to sustainable development, culture, knowledge, and collective memory. People’s ability to communicate in their own language is one of the cornerstones of communication rights. 

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Can migrants make themselves heard in the age of national populism?

01/04/19 | (0) Comments |

Rates of forced migration are the highest they have been in decades. In 2016, approximately 40 million people became internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 22.5 million became refugees, the highest figures on record. These are staggering numbers.

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Media reform in the UK

25/03/19 | (0) Comments |

Trustworthy news and opinion is the Holy Grail of journalism today.

An independent report reviewing challenges facing high quality journalism in the UK has been published. The Cairncross Review: a sustainable future for journalism (12 February 2019) recommends a new regulator to oversee the relationship between news outlets and technology giants and urges a public investigation into the dominance of Facebook and Google in the advertising marketplace.

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What next for the web?

18/03/19 | (0) Comments |

The 30th birthday of the World Wide Web saw its founder publish an open letter reflecting on how the web has changed our world. He  identifies what must be done to build a better web that serves all of humanity.

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Fake news and the hijacking of public opinion

11/03/19 | (0) Comments |

British Members of Parliament are agitating for tougher regulations to combat fake news.

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To share or not to share

04/03/19 | (0) Comments |

A friend forwarded a YouTube video reporting on an apparent practice in a Central Asian country of abducting women for marriage.

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Digital surveillance: Who watches the watchers?

25/02/19 | (0) Comments |

Last year Australia passed a bill weakening security on the iPhones and software people rely on in today’s digital world. This sweeping law could force tech companies to access encrypted data.

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I Got Algorithm

18/02/19 | (0) Comments |

How to prevent social networks from damaging the well-being of young people?

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Mind your language!

18/02/19 | (0) Comments |

Masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral?

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Data protection and googol fines

04/02/19 | (0) Comments |

Data privacy, also called information privacy, is about what data in a computer system can be shared with third parties.

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Building trust in a fragmented world

28/01/19 | (0) Comments |

Genuine communication is all about creating relationships and building trust.

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What makes great journalism? On foreign correspondents and terror

21/01/19 | (0) Comments |

Yet another terrorist act played out in Nairobi just two weeks into 2019.

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Hunger for truth games

14/01/19 | (0) Comments |

Media wars can easily get personal. Today the name of the game is Showtime! Ratings trump sober facts and inconvenient truths. Fox News offers foxy entertainment; The New York Post offers sensationalism; the gutter press epitomised by the likes of the UK’s The Daily Mail and the German tabloid Bild Zeitung have been known to peddle downright lies.

 

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Shrinking civic space demands alternative strategies

07/01/19 | (0) Comments |

At the end of 2018, an astonishing statistic was published by CIVICUS Monitor, a research collaborative effort that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.

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What price freedom of information?

10/12/18 | (0) Comments |
Freedom of information, including the right to access information held by public bodies, is crucial to democracy, good governance, and good citizenship.
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Time for a communication revolution from below!

03/12/18 | (0) Comments |

Sobering words for those who still believe that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the panacea for the world’s ills. In “Developing Countries Losing Out To Digital Giants” (IPS News, 17 October 2018), Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury write:

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Digital distractions

03/12/18 | (0) Comments |

Communication used to be singular. A letter, a newspaper, a radio or television program. It was a largely one-way, edited version of certain parts of reality. Today, communications are plural: a non-stop barrage of texts, sounds, and images from all directions and at all times. Public space has been whittled away by iPads and iPhones, privacy is at a premium, and digital disturbance (what used to be called static) is everywhere.

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New Mexican government should prioritize the protection of journalists

26/11/18 | (0) Comments |

Mexico is among the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Over 70 journalists were killed during the past decade; 8 have been killed in 2018 alone. Many more have been threatened or assaulted in different forms. Worst of all, impunity is rampant.

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WhatsApp calls time on WhatsApp

19/11/18 | (0) Comments |

Social media are accused of bringing about the demise of traditional journalism. They are used to tar news stories with the brush of “fake news” as loud-mouthed politicians eagerly point the finger at what they deem to be critical or unfavourable coverage.

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Integrity in news coverage

12/11/18 | (0) Comments |

The world’s leading newspapers are struggling to maintain their place as voices of conscience in society when via social media everyone is free to express alternative views and opinions.

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When media, politics and sexual violence collide

05/11/18 | (0) Comments |

How media report on sexual violence when political interests are at play is a litmus test for how serious they are about professional ethics.

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‘Fake news’ is undermining Brazilian rights

29/10/18 | (0) Comments |

During Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85), the people’s ability to exercise some of their most fundamental human rights was severely curtailed. In addition to engaging in torture, extrajudicial killings, and repression against opposition groups, the successive military governments that governed Brazil during this period relentlessly restricted freedom of expression, access to public information, and controlled the majority of media outlets.

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Beware propaganda from the wireless industry

22/10/18 | (0) Comments |

There has always been a suspicion that radio waves do more harm than good. With the arrival of the Internet of Things – wireless computing devices embedded in such everyday objects as fridges, washing machines and coffee makers – the scenario easily slips into one of doomsday. 

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Media bread and circuses

15/10/18 | (0) Comments |

On 7 September 2018, former President Obama delivered a pointed critique of the Trump presidency. Speaking to students at the University of Illinois, he urged political awareness and action, saying:

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Genocide in the news: On media elitism and racism

08/10/18 | (0) Comments |

Why do some genocides make the news and others hardly? Let me rephrase: Why do international news media give grossly disproportionate attention to different yet similarly grave ‘deliberate and systematic destructions of a racial, political, or cultural group’ (Miriam-Webster definition)? 

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When did you last take a break from social media?

01/10/18 | (0) Comments |

According to a 2018 research report from the Pew Research Centre on trends in social media use in the United States, 74% of Facebook users in that country visited the platform at least once a day, and 51% did so several times a day. 

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Protecting privacy in a world of digital communications

24/09/18 | (0) Comments |

“New technologies will enable high levels of social control at a reasonable cost. Governments will be able to selectively censor topics and behaviors to allow information for economically productive activities to flow freely, while curbing political discussions that might damage the regime.China’s so-called Great Firewall provides an early demonstration of this kind of selective censorship.”

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