Associate Professor Melissa de Zwart presented a lively session at the 21st Biennial Conference of District & County Court Judges held in Adelaide 29 June – 3 July at the Hilton Hotel. The session, titled: ‘Hives, swarms and tweets: new media and communication in the age of convergence’, highlighted recent developments in legal and social issues that new forms of communication are generating. Her interactive presentation considered the differences between ‘digital natives’ (those born in the age of the Internet ie from the beginning of the 1990s) and ‘digital immigrants’ (those who have to learn to communicate in the digital environment). Issues covered included a consideration of the benefits and problems generated by the ubiquitous nature of social networking platforms and other communications environments accessible via smart phones and portable devices with wireless connectivity. In particular, discussion focused on problems for judges in regulating jury members accessing the internet for searching and contacting witnesses and parties to the case, and the growth of super-injunctions in the UK in an attempt to stop the flow of damaging rumours on services such as Twitter. The recent jailing of a juror in the UK for contacting a defendant on Facebook provided a timely focus for discussion of directions to jury members. The paper was very well received by the 100+ judges at the session.
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