In the social media age, can justice be served?

UBC Dialogues - In the social media age, can justice be served?

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? In today’s media landscape, where online accusations and rumours spread virally, judgment is swift. It’s become a modern witch-hunt, with YouTube videos and Facebook posts condemning the accused before they can even respond. And considering the permanence of the online record, reputations can be shattered even when rumours prove false. Yet at the same time, the police have never had a better way of collecting evidence to convict the guilty. Online conversations, photos and videos posted online are becoming commonplace as evidence in the courtroom. Given these challenges and opportunities, can justice prevail in the online court of public opinion?

This event took place Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at the Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver.




Natalie Clancy – Investigative Reporter/Anchor at CBC News Vancouver


Mark Fenton, BA’86 – Detective, Technological Crimes Unit, Vancouver Police Department

Alfred Hermida Associate Professor, UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism

Christopher J. Schneider – Assistant Professor of Sociology, UBC’s Okanagan campus

Panelist Biographies

Natalie Clancy

Natalie ClancyNatalie Clancy is an award-winning journalist and anchor with a 20 year track record for breaking stories. She has told stories from coast to coast in Canada and internationally. She has reported from seven provinces, the White House in Washington and even Africa to investigate the use of child soldiers.

Natalie recently returned to investigative reporting after spending 5 years anchoring and producing CBC News Vancouver at 11 p.m.

Well recognized by her peers for her accomplishments, Natalie has won three Canadian Association of Journalists Awards, a Murrow Award, a New York Gold World medal, three RTNDA awards, three Webster awards, four Atlantic Journalism Awards, and three Bronze plaque Chris awards. In 2012, her ground-breaking series exposing sexual harassment in the RCMP also won a citation of merit at the Michener Awards.

Mark Fenton

Mark Fenton has built a strong reputation as both an Open Source Investigator and sought after instructor and guest lecturer. In the previous 8 years as a full time member of the Technological Crimes Unit, and a 25 year veteran of a major Canadian police force, Mark has recovered approximately $600 million in compromised financial data.  He has provided crucial intelligence in relation to a number of high profile data breaches across North America which resulted in the successful arrests of a number of global suspects.  Mark has also been recognized at the B.C. Provincial Court level as an expert on social media.

Mark is a guest instructor at the BC Police Academy lecturing the police cadets on computer crime, as well as a sessional instructor at the Justice Institute of BC where he teaches Internet Investigative courses. He is considered the departmental in-house expert regarding the Internet and is the only departmental trainer for Internet Investigations.  He is responsible for the implementation and training of all investigative sections in how to use the Internet as both a research and investigative tool.

Alfred Hermida

Alfred HermidaAlfred Hermida is an award-winning online news pioneer, digital media scholar and journalism educator. He is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, Canada. His research focuses on changes in journalistic practices, social media and emerging genres of journalism, with his work appearing in Journalism Practice, Journalism Studies and Journal of Computer-Mediated Communications. He co-authored Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). His second book, Tell Everyone: How the Stories We Share Shape What We Know and Why It Matters, is due to be published by DoubleDay Canada.

Prof Hermida was named an IBM CAS Canada Research Faculty Fellow in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and won the 2011 UBC President’s Award for Public Education Through Media. His website,, received a Canadian Online Publishing Award for best blog in 2010.

Prof Hermida was a BBC journalist for 16 years, including four as a correspondent in the Middle East, and was a founding member of the BBC News website in 1997. A regular media commentator, his work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, PBS, and the Nieman Journalism Lab.

To order his co-authored book Participatory Journalism, go to

Christopher J. Schneider

Christopher SchneiderChristopher J. Schneider is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus (UBCO). Dr. Schneider is author/editor of three books, including the recent second edition of Qualitative Media Analysis (Sage, 2013). Other recent publications examine the role of Facebook in the 2011 Vancouver riots where social media played an active role in documenting the riot and shaped the outcome of how the riot was defined and interpreted in news media and by police and citizens. Dr. Schneider was the recipient of the UBCO 2010/2011 Award for Teaching Excellence and Innovation – Junior Faculty – and the 2009/2010 Provost’s Public Education Through Media Award. He has given hundreds of interviews with news media across North America, including The New York Times and CBC’s The National, among others.

To order his co-authored book Qualitative Media Analysis, go to

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