Cyber security, surveillance and journalism in Scotland

Daly, A., Robinson, E. and McMenemy, D. (2022) Cyber security, surveillance and journalism in Scotland. Project Report. Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, Dundee.

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The report is the output of a RSE-funded project on how journalists in Scotland undertake their work in the digital age from the point of view of cyber security and surveillance impacts. This research interviewed ten journalists from Scotland, from various beats, locations, and employment backgrounds (including freelance, editorial, broadcast, etc.) during July and August 2022. Interviewees were asked about their perceptions of cyber security threats, surveillance, and their knowledge of cyber security. They were also asked about other related issues that affected their work, including defamation, harassment, and data protection. The background literature revealed that while digital technology like smart phones makes the work of a journalist easier from the perspective of information gathering and dissemination, the technologies also pose dangers to the integrity of their work through the ability of other actors, including governments, corporations, and individuals, to surveil them and compromise their cyber security. The literature also revealed concerns for freedom of expression related to other information laws such as defamation and data protection. There was a general familiarity among the interviewees with the legislation related to cyber security and surveillance, but a limited knowledge of it in detail. The journalists were aware of the potential dangers of surveillance, and were able to cite a range of examples, some from their own experience of being surveilled and others related to the experiences of colleagues within the profession. Interviewees’ experiences related to surveillance included examples of state and government surveillance, corporate surveillance, as well as surveillance by private citizens and criminals. There was a general consensus among interviewees that more could be done to train the profession in cyber security and surveillance issues, with most training that had been received related to generic corporate cyber security issues and not focused on the domain of journalism. This was an issue for both freelancers and corporate journalists, however the self reliance necessary for freelancers in terms of skills development and keeping up to date was particularly evident. There was also a general consensus around a lack of resources both for training and for acquiring devices and software to protect against surveillance. Other key concerns related to the protection of sources, as well as the increasing need to utilise social media for dissemination of outputs, putting journalists much more in the public eye, which sometimes led to surveillance and cyber security risks. Another common concern related to the online harassment of journalists via social media in reaction to stories they published, especially around constitutional politics, as well as football-related stories involving Glasgow clubs Celtic and Rangers. Other issues that were important were defamation, which had a large impact on their work, and harassment, which did not have as much of an influence on editorial decisions, but affected them day-to-day, including having an impact on mental health. Recommendations: 1. More ongoing cyber security education and support for journalists and media organisations. 2. More legal protection, support and education for journalists. 3. More resources and sustainability for the (cyber) future of journalism in Scotland.

Item Type:Research Reports or Papers (Project Report)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McMenemy, Dr David
Authors: Daly, A., Robinson, E., and McMenemy, D.
Subjects:K Law > KD England and Wales > KDC Scotland
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Publisher:Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science
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