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Dec. 11, 2013, 2:57 p.m.
Audience & Social

The Berkman Center released the inaugural edition of what they hope will be an annual report today. “Internet Monitor 2013: Reflections on the Digital World” is an analysis of trends in our increasingly networked society, with essays by Ron Deibert, Malavika Jayaram, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Molly Sauter, Bruce Schneier, Ashkan Soltani, Zeynep Tufekci, and more.

There’s plenty that might be of interest to Nieman Lab readers. Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project, and Andy Sellars, the Center’s First Amendement fellow, collaborated on “The Role of Citizens in Gathering, Publishing and Consuming Primary Source News Content.” Here’s an excerpt:

While the creation and surfacing of primary source material by citizens has been seriously questioned only when the source breaches a duty of confidentiality over the information disclosed, such as the disclosures of Edward Snowden, significantly more criticism has been voiced as citizens move from documentation roles into analysis roles. This complexity was best highlighted during the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing. While public documentation of the incident was critical to the law enforcement investigation, the public’s desire for information at a rate faster than the government (or traditional news sources) would provide it led many citizens to try to parse primary source material directly.

The results of these efforts were mostly negative; attempts to locate the bombers using online platforms like Reddit (on early iterations of /r/findbostonbombers) and to gather more information on the day of the Tsarnaev manhunt by listening to police scanners led to misidentifications and confusion – although similar criticisms were appropriately leveled against institutional news outlets for similar behavior. The increasing social recognition of traditional media ethics around verification of information posted on these sites has led to a richer and more expedient dissemination of information than traditionally thought possible through institutional media outlets.

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