The High Court and the Cocktail Party from Hell: Can Social Media Improve Community Engagement with the Courts?
Sourdin T., Zariski A. (eds) The Responsive Judge. Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, vol 67, 121-141
23 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2018 Last revised: 25 Nov 2018
Date Written: July 7, 2018
Everybody is continuously connected … with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning. Everybody’s talking at once in a hypnotic, hyper din: the cocktail party from hell. (Dowd 2013)
Our understanding of the world around us is increasingly connected to the smartphone in our pocket. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all deliver information to us in the gym or on the bus. Courts in Australia have often lamented the lack of understanding of their work and have begun to turn to social media as a potential means of becoming more responsive to the views of the wider community. But social media management is time consuming, especially if the Courts’ message is to be heard above the “hyper-din” of other simultaneous exchanges. The user-generated content also means that it can be unpredictable and active engagement by Courts with litigants also raises significant issues. Despite these risks, there has been little research done about the extent to which Courts’ engagement with social media will deliver any benefit. As a means of testing this idea in the “real world”, this chapter collects and examines the volume and content of Twitter commentary concerning a recent decision of the High Court of Australia to assess the depth and breadth of community discussion. It finds that as a platform for community engagement, Twitter would appear to be neither well used nor persuasive. In light of the potential costs and risks, further research is required before opening the Courts to this medium generally.
Keywords: courts, social media, media, transparency, open justice
JEL Classification: K41, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation