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Social Media and the Tyranny of Distance. Pacific Access to Online Legal Information Presentation for LVI Conference 2013 by PacLII. Introduction. PacLII Business: Publishing and providing free access to legal information in the Pacific Islands region

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Social media and the tyranny of distance
Social Media and the Tyranny of Distance

Pacific Access to Online Legal Information

Presentation for LVI Conference 2013 by PacLII


  • PacLII Business: Publishing and providing free access to legal information in the Pacific Islands region

  • Need to look at the region in context – both distance and technology - and how it affects PacLII Business

  • Need to ask ourselves what we mean by access.

  • Can Social Media overcome contextual constraints to promote access??

The paclii pacific
The PacLII Pacific

Distance impacts on communications
Distance Impacts on Communications

  • Transportation

  • Time zones

  • Slow and erratic postal service

  • Poor telephone land line service

  • Language barriers

Access to legal information in this environment
Access to Legal Information in this environment

  • PacLII based at School of Law campus in Vanuatu

  • Started in mid 90s to support distance teaching of law to USP students

  • Collects and publishes legal materials from around 20 island jurisdictions on the website.

  • In 90s pre-internet – very little physical access – few libraries and even in courts judgments kept in judges own chambers and not duplicated

  • Very few series of Law Reports published and very expensive to produce and to buy.

  • No access to other resources such as Lexis – too expensive and little in the way of Pacific resources.

Fragile resources
Fragile resources

Paclii website home page
PacLII Website Home Page

Paclii net
PacLII Net

A reminder paclii s mission or what do we do this for
A reminder - PacLII’s Mission – or what do we do this for??

  • Providing access to Pacific Islands Legal Information to support the rule of law and promote the development of a Pacific Islands Jurisprudence.

  • Is publishing the materials on a website enough to achieve this?

Professor richard leiter daniel poulin on the limits of static publication
Professor Richard Leiter & Daniel Poulin on the limits of static publication

  • "the sum total of all primary law in the country at every level and jurisdiction, will amount to only a minor portion of the materials that lawyers need in order to practice law, and the public need in order to understand it.“

  • Daniel Poulin acknowledges internet publication enables reaching out to large segments of the population, but there are limitations to understanding of law by that audience: “even if information must be conveyed by intermediaries before reaching its final recipient: the citizen

Access revisited
Access revisited

  • PacLII is in the business of not only providing access to law in the form of legal materials but its vision and mission statement behoves it to use its best efforts to utilise that publication to support the rule of law and to develop a pacific islands jurisprudence. PacLII needs to support access to its resources and access is not just the finding of the cases, legislation, articles, reports etc - it is about the understanding of them to a degree where people are able to relate it to their own situations.

Undp commission on legal empowerment
UNDP Commission on Legal Empowerment

  • Believes that the poor are empowered through not only the dissemination of legal information but also that the formation of self help peer groups are ‘first step strategies towards justice’. “Modern information and communication technologies are particularly well suited to support interventions geared towards strengthening information-sharing groups, teaching the poor about their rights, and encouraging non-formal legal education."

A happy marriage
A happy marriage?

  • “Online social networks have a lot in common with traditional society, which gives Pacific islanders a distinct edge as they learn to apply new tools to age-old tradition.”

    - ‘Net Benefits_Internet Uptake in the Pacific’. Pacific Institute of Public Policy Discussion paper No.20, April 2012

Perfect storm brewing in the pacific
Perfect Storm brewing in the Pacific?

  • The Southern Cross Fibre Optic Cable

  • Spread of mobile technolgies

  • A youthful population and the spread of social media

Social media a means to an end
Social Media – a means to an end.

The end for PacLII is effecting access.

  • (i) connect with younger audience

  • (ii) New audiences

  • (iii) Build on regional traditions to create modern meeting spaces.


  • Accuracy – these fora may discuss legal topics – what about erroneous information

  • Need to join facebook to access facebook – big brother

    Are these valid?

  • "In online communities, however, I would certainly hope that we, laypeople and jurists alike, may still discuss the law in general terms. There is a fine line to walk, but it is important for the legal community to recognize that the more people talk about the law, the more our society benefits from the Rule of Law“ Olivier Charbonneau

Paclii facebook page
PacLIIFacebook page


  • We are at the beginning of our foray into Social Media – will listen with interest to Colin Lachance’s presentation on the CanLII experience – the other end of the spectrum

  • PacLII is about promoting access to legal information not just to legal professionals but developing the legal literacy of communities – it would appear that the use of social media could revolutionise how we can achieve that.

  • It seems we are not luddites after all!