Archive for March, 2017

British Activist/Blogger Wins Tweet Libel Award Against Columnist

Friday, March 10th, 2017
Monroe and Hopkins

Plaintiff Monroe and defendant Hopkins, L to R, Twitter profile pics

British news is reporting that Jack Monroe (@MxJackMonroe), who writes about hunger and food issues, has won £24,000 (US$29,200) damages award against newspaper columnist and TV personality Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) over two tweets concerning war memorials.

The right-leaning Hopkins tweeted Monroe in May 2015: “Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”

A check of Hopkins’s Twitter feed shows a theme of attempted-attention-grabbing invective. A recipe for risking liability, no doubt, in the UK with its heavy-handed defamation law.

Qin, Strömberg and Wu on Why China Allows Freer Social Media

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Bei Qin, David Strömberg and Yanhui Wu, of the University of Hong Kong, Stockholm University Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) and University of Southern California Marshall School of Business have posted to SSRN Why Does China Allow Freer Social Media? Protests versus Surveillance and Propaganda.

This paper look absolutely fascinating, as you’ll see from the abstract:

This paper documents basic facts regarding public debates about controversial political issues on Chinese social media. Our documentation is based on a dataset of 13.2 billion blog posts published on Sina Weibo — the most prominent Chinese microblogging platform — during the 2009–2013 period. Our primary finding is that a shockingly large number of posts on highly sensitive topics were published and circulated on social media. For instance, we find millions of posts discussing protests and an even larger number of posts with explicit corruption allegations. This content may spur and organize protests. However, it also makes social media effective tools for surveillance. We find that most protests can be predicted one day before their occurrence and that corruption charges of specific individuals can be predicted one year in advance. Finally, we estimate that our data contain 600,000 government-affiliated accounts which contribute 4% of all posts about political and economic issues on Sina Weibo. The share of government accounts is larger in areas with a higher level of internet censorship and where newspapers have a stronger pro-government bias. Overall, our findings suggest that the Chinese government regulates social media to balance threats to regime stability against the benefits of utilizing bottom-up information.

The paper is forthcoming in the The Journal of Economic Perspectives.