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Associate Professor Cassandra Sharp
University of Wollongong

Contemporary events, conflicts and ideas are instantly disseminated and played out globally via digital content. At a time when knowledge seems infinitely accessible, the concept of objective truth has become negotiable and is diminishing in value. In a so-called post-truth world, facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotion, and telling the truth seems revolutionary. This is no less true than in political and legal discourse as expressed on social media, where dominant voices can be uninformed, emotionally manipulative and/or discriminatory. This paper queries whether truth can be rescued from the clutches of those who see the truth as optional, and in particular asks how it is even possible to recognise truth in social media narratives. Using a case study of one Twitter narrative provoked by the Christchurch Mosque attack, this paper explores whether news reporting on social media helps or hinders the democratisation of public communication and whether it contributes to an erosion of truth.

Cassandra Sharp, PhD, LLB(Hons), BA is Associate Professor in the School of Law, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong and a member of the Legal Intersections Research Centre. She is Managing Editor of Law Text Culture, and co-editor, with Marett Leiboff, of Cultural Legal Studies: Law’s Popular Cultures and the Metamorphosis of Law (Routledge, 2015). Cassandra’s research interest lies in the expression and transmission of law within the public imaginary through mediated popular fictions, and she has developed an interdisciplinary empirical methodology to explore the ways that the concepts of justice and legality is challenged and/or maintained through contemporary stories of law.

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