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Patterns of media coverage repeated in online abuse on high-profile criminal cases

Are, C. (2019). Patterns of media coverage repeated in online abuse on high-profile criminal cases. Journalism, doi: 10.1177/1464884919881274

Abstract

What relationship do the mainstream media have with online abuse on high-profile criminal cases? This article hopes to make a start at answering this question by examining tweets containing the #McCann hashtag, utilised by a highly engaged community of users to comment on all matters related to the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann. On #McCann, the child’s parents and other players are often singled out as the perpetrators of her disappearance and other crimes, in a blend of harassment, defamation and insults with conspiracy theories, disinformation and a strong anti-establishment vein typical of the posttruth era. Through an experimental digital ethnography blending elements of content and discourse analysis, this research has observed the #McCann conversation and analysed 500 tweets with the hashtag, observing that some of the most offensive theories posted by users on Twitter reprised themes seen in the mainstream media at the time of the disappearance, which resulted in defamation lawsuits by the McCanns and in complaints about unethical reporting at the Leveson Inquiry. This raises questions about the mainstream media’s responsibility and duty of care towards people they report on in the digital age, and showcases a symbiotic yet diffident relationship between anti-establishment online users and traditional news media.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Are, C., Patterns of media coverage repeated in online abuse on high-profile criminal cases. Journalism, doi: x. Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). DOI: 10.1177/1464884919881274.
Publisher Keywords: Madeleine McCann, online abuse, online harassment, social media, social media ethics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/23033
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