Monday, May 02, 2005

Using Blogs and the Net to Influence the Court of Public Opinion

The Saturday Toronto Star discusses the rise of "cyber-defence specialists", media-savvy defence lawyers, crisis management communications experts and PR spinmeisters who try to sway public opinion and potential jurors by disseminating their message through the Internet.


"The old paradigm went something like this ... : Prosecutorial spin begins with a 'perp' walk where the defendant is paraded before media cameras. This is typically followed by 'salacious' announcements by law enforcement. To counter that, the defendant's attorney would then say something hackneyed like 'The truth of my client's innocence will emerge in court.'

But with the Internet, things have gotten a lot more sophisticated... it means putting a human face to the prisoners, with shots and video of their families, links to sympathetic media stories and using the right key words to bring visitors to their site in an Internet search. This means scouring the news daily for articles that might tie in to their case in a sympathetic way, and placing links in Internet search engines, so that readers scouring the Web might be tempted to click on and find out more."

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who writes the Law Bytes column for the Star, comments in the article on the more conservative, less flamboyant, less celebrity-driven legal culture in Canada.

But even Geist sees changes on the horizon: "Likely we will see increasing use of the Internet to promote a particular position by lawyers. This is something that's already pretty common: Lawyers already use the mainstream media, but it just makes sense that the community will continue to move to where public opinion is shaped."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:39 pm


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