[Governance] Fwd: NYT: On Tech: The internet is splintering

Deirdre Williams williams.deirdre at gmail.com
Wed Feb 17 16:05:04 EST 2021

This appeared on CIVIC the Caribbean's virtual community at lunchtime today.
Good to see you both again
stay safe

Published:Wednesday | February 17, 2021 | 4:54 AM

The recent posting by an American JetBlue employee, Miss Kalina Collier,
suggesting that she was kidnapped and being held against her will in Jamaica
serves to bring into focus once again the irresponsible and reckless
of some users on social media.

This comes in the wake of a revelation by Jamaican authorities that the
was placed in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, as mandated
by the
Disaster Risk Management Act.

It is understood that the employee’s posting ignited a digital wildfire on
social media, resulting in all manner of derogatory comments in respect of
Jamaica, with some even going so far in the way of issuing death threats to
government officials.

With the revelation of the reasons behind her ‘detention’, some had demanded
that she be charged with Creating Public Mischief. There are those who have
posited the view that if she were a Jamaican, she would have long been
for such an offence.

Within this context, however, the reminder needs to be given that the
offence of
Creating Public Mischief does not extend to the type of action that was
associated with Miss Collier’s conduct.

A condition precedent to the successful prosecution of any such charge must
that the person arrested for such an offence made the false report to a
officer. That is to say, in this instance, a member of the Jamaica

This has long been the law since the ruling by our Court of Appeal in
Simmonds v Queen in 1960. This position has not changed. In the present
situation, it does not appear that Miss Collier, although making a
complaint of
a false nature, reported this matter to the police, and, consequently, any
charges brought would not have been successful.

This being the case, however, does not absolve persons like Miss Collier and
other users of social media who, without regard for the truth, spew venomous
comments with great regularity. Such users are commonly referred to as

The comments, although typically defamatory in nature, from a practical
point of
view, are hardly ever actionable due to the fact that these trolls hide
the veil of anonymity and, in some instances, operate outside the island of

Whereas Section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act provides for criminal charges to be
laid against persons who publish information electronically, which may have
potential of inciting violence or causing harm to individuals, it does not
into account publications which, whilst not explicitly inciting violence or
harm, nevertheless are equally damaging. The victims of such vile comments
often holders of public offices and persons of prominence.

The extent to which such comments can cause irreparable damage are
The clearest example of this beyond Miss Collier’s case, were the
utterances of
former United States President Donald Trump, who created fertile ground for
was to follow by way of an insurrection which, among other things, resulted
the loss of lives.

Must we in Jamaica wait until trolls have reached the zenith of their
commentaries before we act to curb their traits? Should we, in the name of
speech, continue to allow such purveyors of false and injurious information
capture and occupy at their will, the various social media platforms
without any
legal consequences?

The better view, while recognising the right to free speech, is to impose
by law
a measure of restraint in respect of these trolls.

The approach taken by the court in Australia last year, in Fairfax Media
Publication; Nationwide News Pty Ltd; Australian News Channel Pty Ltd v
may well be the solution to this issue. The court held that the host of a
platform was itself accountable for damaging statements republished by it
from a
third party. This decision is consistent with the actions taken by the
social media platforms to ban President Trump from publication via their

The Fairfax case is instructive. Were such a position to be adopted here
the governance of legislation, it would mean that the host of social media
platforms would be mandated to redact injurious comments received before
posting. With the media landscape being heavily populated as it now is,
with social media pages are all too eager to sacrifice truth and respect
for the
dignity of others at the altar of expedience.

In all the circumstances, therefore, would it be too much to expect, and
stipulate that, hosts of media platforms here in Jamaica be held
accountable for
the content of their publication when trolls remain elusive?

After all, ‘If yuh cyaan ketch Quaku, yuh ketch im shut’. Our legislators
to act now.

Peter Champagnie, QC, is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to
columns at gleanerjm.com.

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View this contribution on the web site https://dgroups.org/_/y55d7pvb

On Wed, 17 Feb 2021 at 16:55, ian.peter--- via Governance <
governance at lists.igcaucus.org> wrote:

> To which story you can add issues like this - Facebook banning all
> Australian and international news in Australia in reaction to (albeit
> crazy) new national media laws...
> https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-18/facebook-to-restrict-sharing-or-viewing-news-in-australia/13166208
> These restrictions are in place as of this morning....
>  Splinternet indeed.....
> Ian Peter
> On 18/02/2021 5:56 am, Peter H. Hellmonds via Governance wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> sorry, I've been a lurker, a silent reader for a while. But I thought I'd
> share this New York Times article of today, as it asks the pertinent
> quesiton about different rules for online free speech versus censorship.
> What's your opinion about this article?
> Regards
> Peter
> Peter H. Hellmonds
> peter.hellmonds at hellmonds.eu
> Begin forwarded message:
> *From: *The New York Times <nytdirect at nytimes.com>
> *Subject: **On Tech: The internet is splintering*
> *Date: *17. February 2021 at 19:15:02 CET
> *To: *peter
> *Reply-To: *nytdirect at nytimes.com
> --
> Governance mailing list
> Governance at lists.igcaucus.org
> https://lists.igcaucus.org/mailman/listinfo/governance

“The fundamental cure for poverty is not money but knowledge" Sir William
Arthur Lewis, Nobel Prize Economics, 1979
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