I first heard about the oil company Trafigura and its suspected dumping of toxic oil on the Ivory Coast, that this Guardian article relates to, when I read a tweet on October 13 at 1:34am from @Glinner (Graham Linehan, writer of The IT Crowd): “What a shame it would be if #trafigura started trending after their lawyers went to so much trouble to silence the press.”
Indeed #trafigura became the top trending topic later that day. It seemed the whole of Twitter was awash with tweets from thousands of people spreading the news that the oil company’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck,were trying to gag the media with a super-injunction to stop people knowing about its client’s alleged crime.
This super-injunction, which not only prevented the media from talking about what the Minton Report had said (where the story broke from, see a summary of the report here from WikiLeaks via CyberLaw Blog), it prevented them from publishing questions raised in parliament and the people imposing the super-injunction too. This ban included social networking sites.
I’m pro Twitter and love that this medium can help break and distribute stories such as this. But contrary to popular belief, although helping a great deal in spreading the news to many people, Twitter did not bring the story to light in the first place.
Print beat the internet
Later that week on Friday I watched Have I Got News For You on BBC 1 and Ian Hislop (editor of Private Eye) spoke for a couple of minutes about how Private Eye wrote about the issue first, despite the super-injunction. An article in Private Eye by Ian Hislop states: “[We were] the first publication to print the full text of the now infamous parliamentary questions… a full two weeks before the Twittersphere caught up with the story.”
Perhaps Private Eye should have tweeted a link to it?
Not agreeing with all that is stated here in this Internet Manifesto created by German journalists I do find point nine The Internet is the new venue for political discourse interesting. It demonstrates how the internet is a powerful tool in maintaining democracy as it: “Thrives on participation and freedom of information.”
The internet provides a platform for debate on the media’s output as it enables the people, formally known as the audience, to engage in talks on almost anything and everything. As the Internet Manifesto explains it encourages active discussion which simply wasn’t possible not so long ago. The public are now able to express their opinions by using online mediums like Twitter and comment sections on articles.
In Alison Gow’s blog she talks about internet manifestos and how putting them on the web isn’t the answer because: “Too many of the people who need convincing aren’t looking there that often.”
Alison acknowledges the vital importance of the net and how every journalist needs involvement in its development. She understands that although the print media claim they are internet savvy, this isn’t always the case – especially with regards to the execs: “The focus is [still] on the money-making print product.”
So the problem lays with staff, as Alison states: “Higher up the editorial food chain” that aren’t internet literate. They refuse to learn the new ways of journalism, not grasping that the industry has changed forever.
In essence she is saying just because you understand how it once worked there’s no point having your head in the sand hoping that the industry will go back to the way it was. Until a time-travelling DeLorean gets invented, that’s not going to happen.
These people should embrace change and help foster democracy online. A manifesto won’t implement this, but it serves as a reference for those that should be paying attention.