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5 IJCA 25 (2013)
Trial by Tweet? Findings on Facebook? Social Media Innovations or Degradation? The Future and Challenge of Change for Courts

handle is hein.journals/ijca5 and id is 29 raw text is: 

Trial by Tweet? Findings on Facebook? Soal Media Innovation or
Degradation? The Future and Challenge of Change for Courts'
By Dr. Pamela D Schulz and Dr. Andrew J Cannon2


   The growth and exponential influence of social media challenging modern media outlets and the scope of participants is rivalling
   that of nation states. In addition the power of this media spectrum is forming another style of Public Square in cyber space and
   the demise of the spiral of silence. In turn this appears to be democratic input that can affect public policy and perhaps affects
   court administration and outcomes. This paper argues that while Courts must become more media savvy and modernise their
   methods of information outputs, it is also incumbent upon them to consider the theoretical impact and practices at work and how
   to ensure the delivery and dissemination of relevant responsive information and maintain the integrity and independence of
   Courts and the Judiciary.

1. Social Media and a Brave New World
Social media has been heralded around the world as the new way of sourcing information and communication and this
new social world appears in some instances to be the predicator of a different style of democracy conducted by user
generated content. The site Facebook , which is expected to have 500 million users by the end of 2012, and Twitter are
larger communities than most nation states. The image hosting site Flickr also hosted more than 3 billion images in 2010
and photographs making the world famous libraries and museums pale by comparison. 75% of all internet users used
social media in one form or another. There are more than 1.5 million private blog sites on line. This is a profound
change from the western cultural model of the management of power. This article discusses how courts, who are part of
that power arrangement, should engage with this new media to ensure that their role as bastions of independent
principled appliers of a rule of law is understood and appreciated in the broad community.

Western power arrangements have long been based on the nation state which claims a monopoly of power over people in
a defined geographical area.' Discourse in the community has been substantially directed by political, business and
media leaders who have interconnected interests. So as to ensure that conflict is resolved peacefully and without
threatening the position of authorities, the State intermediates the exercise of its power over citizens through the court
system which also ensures that disputes between citizens can be resolved peacefully. In better examples the population
exercises a degree of control over the powerful elites by the free election of the political leaders, the media discourse is
lively and free ranging and the court system is fully independent of executive government.

There was a time when the work of courts was accepted without substantial criticism and the Attorneys-General of
modern democratic states would speak up for and defend the courts. Those times are long past. The power of the nation
state is declining as against large corporate interests, court systems are being privatizediv and parallel to this ownership of
the traditional media has become increasingly concentrated at the same time as its influence is challenged by the fast
emerging social media. Discourse around courts has increasingly focused on a 'law and order' rhetoric. Notwithstanding
low crime rates and relative safety, politicians and media have manipulated fear of crime to gain public attention and
courts have suffered collateral damage and sometimes direct attack in a discourse of disrespect about their work in
controversial cases.v

To some extent the new media is still just an extension of the media spectrum of old but with a modern twist. That twist is
to encourage and enthuse the users to log on and to consume media in its myriad contexts and platforms which are
incredibly mobile. These contexts are now being designed to excite, enthuse and to disturb as part of what has been
described in Australia as infotainment. v This form of infotainment is now part of a spectrum that finds itself lodged
between the cult of celebrity and the notion of the fear of crime that feeds what some journalists describe as the hungry
beastv: an ever hungry, and never sated, media that needs to fill a void 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The notion of
media agenda setting by opinion editorial pages in large national dailies is diminishing. Well known media blog sites still
attempt to keep the community scared or titillated and lead discussions on matters political and social, but increasingly
they have lost control over community discourse which freely swirls around social media unconstrained by the control of
nation state leaders. The current media climate is different from that of only a decade or more ago. The concept of mass

1 Dr. Schulz presented a version of this paper at the International Courts Administration Conference in The Hague, June 2012.
2 Dr. Pamela Schulz is a part time lecturer in Graduate Studies in the School of Communication and International Studies at the
University of South Australia in Adelaide. Dr. Andrew J Cannon is Deputy Chief Magistrate and Senior Mining Warden of South
Australia and adjunct Professor at Minster University and Flinders University Law Schools. The authors acknowledge the interest and
suggested sites provided for this paper by Markus Zimmer.

International Journal For Court Administration I February 2013                                 25

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