A billion Facebook users generate 2.7 billion “likes” per day equating to 1,875,000 every minute. Increasingly social media has become a form of social and political engagement and 47% of FB users have “liked” comments on a political cause they believe in. Protected free speech is a luxury the Western world has long enjoyed. Does clicking the universally understood thumbs-up “like” constitute actual speech? It conveys a message understood by most but should it demand constitutional protection? This article in First Amendment Studies explores legal precedents surrounding this form of communication and surveys FB users’ attitudes.
In the case of Bland V. Roberts, an employee was fired for “liking” a campaign lobbying against his boss. The employee claimed the right to free speech but the judge ruled that in the absence of “sufficient” speech the case could not proceed to trial. The employee was not reinstated. In today’s context of morphing methods of communication, is the law not keeping up? An ensuing debate revealed that large numbers concur and felt this judgement would lead to fear and inhibition and deter free expression of ideas and opinions online; the chill factor. Ironically the First Amendment protects symbolic language, even rude gestures such as “the finger”. If it can stretch this far then surely it is not unfeasible to expect coverage for the FB thumbs up. The authors developed a study of Facebook users and devised a First Amendment Scale to examine the value of computer source code communication and its relation to free speech.
440 participants took part. More than half had “liked” political content in the past. 4 hypotheses were tested and all proved true; that “like” users most certain of who would see their “like” expected recipients to understand their meaning, those who felt they had sent a message with a “like” are sure that recipients understood. Participants believed when using “like” on political content that their posts were constitutionally protected. Finally those using “like” to convey a message believed that this should be protected by the First Amendment. The most common interpretation for “like” amongst participants was “agree”, “support” and generally to endorse a person, place or idea. Overall participants believed that a “like” is akin to speech as detailed in the First Amendment.
The twist in the tale is that on appeal the Bland V Roberts judgement was reversed, ruling that the thumbs up indeed qualified for protection. As the authors note, “In both offline and online domains, each community of social practice negotiates its own language conventions and creates its own democracy of meaning. The parsing of the First Amendment will continue to be influenced by these communities.” They finish by urging further research on the “chill factor” and its potential negative effect on freedom of speech online.
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Just how ‘open’ are you? Examining authors’ attitudes to licences, reuse and distribution
Understanding how others can use your work and making decisions on the licence you want to apply to your published research is crucial for any author. The open access movement strongly advocates liberal reuse and distribution of content and there has also been a move by UK funders to mandate use of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence when public funds are used to pay for open access publishing. But how does this fit with individual researchers’ attitudes and opinions on licences? Do their preferences vary by gender, age, career stage or discipline? And are the voices advocating liberal reuse and distribution changing the opinions of today’s research community?
The 2014 Taylor & Francis Open Access Survey sought to answer some of these questions, surveying authors on their licence preferences as part of wider research on open access. Analysis released today further breaks down these initial findings by region, country, discipline, gender, age, and career stage.
Initial results showed that the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) remained the most preferred licence, with the traditional choices of Exclusive Licence to Publish and Copyright Assignment following behind, at the cost of the remaining Creative Commons Licences. This year’s results did however show a softening of attitudes towards CC BY when compared to the 2013 Taylor & Francis Open Access Survey. Although still the least popular licence, CC BY (the least restrictive Creative Commons licence, permitting “unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited”) only attracted around a third (35%) of least preferred licence selections in 2014, as opposed to over half (52%) in 2013.
When analysed by career stage, this overall preference for more restrictive or traditional licences remains the same, whether it was those with fewer than 5 years’ experience responding or more than 20 years. Would this differ by age though, with younger researchers more accepting of liberal reuse and distribution? Surprisingly, authors who responded to this survey picked similar choices, with those from their 20s to their 50s following the overall preference for CC BY-NC-ND. For those in their 60s and 70s Exclusive Licence to Publish overtook CC BY-NC-ND as the most popular choice, and for those in their 70s a sharp drop in the popularity of CC BY-NC-ND is matched by a rise in the support for CC BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial).
These preferences reflect authors’ overall views when asking about commercial versus non-commercial reuse, with 65% saying it was unacceptable for their work to be used for commercial gain (down slightly from 67% in 2013). When asked about their attitude to their work being used for non-commercial gain though, 71% believed this was acceptable, an increase of 3% from 2013.
Such responses create an interesting quandary for the open access movement, with even authors from the science, technical and medical fields showing an increase in their preference for the more restrictive and traditional licences. In this survey, only computer scientists showed any significant support for the less restrictive Creative Commons options. According to these responses, reuse and distribution continues to be a challenging subject across the research community, with much work to be done before individuals are comfortable with the most liberal options.
Notes to editors
Full analysis on licence preferences: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/explore/Open-Access-Survey-2014-Supp-1.pdf
Full survey results: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/openaccess/opensurvey/2014
As part of the overall Taylor & Francis 2014 Open Access Survey, authors were given a choice of six licence options; four Creative Commons choices (CC BY, CC BY-ND, CC BY-NC and CC BY-NC-ND) and two traditional choices (Exclusive Licence to Publish and Copyright Assignment ). They were asked to rate their most preferred, second most preferred and least preferred choice, with an industry standard definition for each option plus links to the Creative Commons suite on the Creative Commons website.
Creative Commons licence definitions: https://creativecommons.org/licenses
Response base was 7,936 in 2014 (9% response rate). In 2013 this was 14,768 in 2013 (19%). US and Canada were the largest group of respondents (38% - an increase of 6% on 2013). Authors based in Europe were the second largest group (32%, down 2% on 2013).
Join in the conversation on Twitter @TandFOpen #oasurvey2014.
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