In what is going to raise a number of questions regarding social media use in trials Oracle has disclosed it has financial ties to, Florian Muller
Although an Oracle spokesperson said the disclosure was pre-emptive and the connection sufficiently tenuous to not jeopardise the status of its case the judge did state a concern regarding the influence the blogger, a renowned patent expert, may have had in the general coverage of the case in the Press and on the web.
Florian Muller has stated that he made no qualms about his relationship with Oracle and provided full disclosure on his blog. Yet studies suggest that disclosure
is no guarantee of impartiality and may in fact work the other way, helping absolve a person from the guilt in exercising their bias, because they have already stated it.
The case in question has been a very public one. Oracle has sued Google
over an alleged patent infringement in Android for over $1 billion. It is a case which it has lost, though it is planning to appeal and continue its pursuit.
In disclosing financial ties with influencers Oracle also named Stanford University Prof Paul Goldstein and a number of its own employees who had also blogged about the trial. Google has stated that it has no direct financial ties to anyone who was involved in publicly writing about the case but its lawyers have asked for further clarification.
Google’s AdWords program is widely used by bloggers and commentators to help recoup the cost of their blogs. If “having a financial connection” extends to cover such an arrangement Google’s lawyers will have to prepare and submit to the judge their own list of possibly less than impartial reporting parties.
The patent trial between Google and Oracle has been a very carefully watched one. At stake is the future of the Android operating system, for Google, and the long term viability of Oracle that’s struggling to make money. This is also of great importance to social media experts. This has been a trial that’s been endlessly poured over, written about, commented on, Tweeted, Facebooked and Google Plussed to the point that everyone felt that they were experts.
Social media has the ability to provide a radical degree of transparency to every sphere of activity it is applied at. A courtroom however is a very special place and this will be a ground breaking test case.