This panel was convened at 11:00 a.m., Friday, April 10, by its moderator Joanne Neenan of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who introduced the panelists: Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch; Sarah Joseph of Castan Centre for Human Rights Law (Monash University, Melbourne); and Scott Nolan Smith of Portland, Digital Diplomacy Coalition.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND PROMOTION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
By Sarah Joseph ([dagger])
Social media is an improvement upon mainstream media when it comes to the coverage of international law, because the only way possible is up. The mainstream media in general is very bad at covering international law. It is terrible in my country, Australia, and I think it is worse in the United States, where the media is totally preoccupied with U.S. law rather than international or "foreign" law. The UK is possibly better than both, but it is still not a very high standard.
Social media allows for the injection of international law issues into debates where it has been absent, where it is wrongly portrayed, or where only one side of an active debate over the content of international law is generally presented.
For example, let us consider the case of John Basikbasik in Australia. This year, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner made an administrative non-binding decision regarding the human rights of Mr. Basikbasik, who has been kept in detention for eight years after the expiration of his sentence for a serious crime. She is in fact required by Australian law to make these decisions according to international law criteria. She determined that he had been the victim of arbitrary detention and recommended an award of $350,000 (AUD).
This decision was demonized by the government and sections of the press. It was reported as "wife killer awarded 350k," which misrepresents the case. Hence, people such as myself can get involved in the debate, providing that missing aspect, trying to explain in blogs or on Twitter or Facebook why this decision was made. I can tweet links to the international human rights cases upon which the decision was based. I can present the angle that is missing but is crucial to an understanding of the fact that this decision was International Human Rights Law 101.
Another example is NYU Professor Rob Howse's blogging on the proposed agreement over Iran's nuclear ambitions. He is injecting a very important international law and international relations angle to that debate which is missing in U.S. mainstream media coverage. That is that the proposed deal, if it eventuates, will be between many countries and Iran, not just the United States. Whatever the U.S. Congress's powers over U.S. sanctions, it has no power over the sanctions of other countries, such as Russia, China, and the EU. That fact is a major curtailment of the powers of the U.S. Congress over the matter.
As for complexity and international law, one is not limited, for example, to the 140 characters on Twitter. One can use blogs, and then use Twitter or Facebook to promote the blog, or some other outlet. Blogs in particular can allow for the dissemination of complex information.
Of course, if one's blog is too complex, that may alienate the non-specialist audience. However, that is a trick of writing rather than dissemination. Academics or...