Here’s an excerpt:
“Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media
for violence, we need to stop them.”
Cameron said that government officials are working with authorities “to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
I have a real problem with this line of thinking and feel like it’s a very slippery slope when leaders of countries, no matter where they are – start wondering if the ‘free flow of information can sometimes be a problem.’ Who gets to decide what social media, or any technology for that matter can be used for? There certainly will be times when any piece of tech or ways of communicating will be used in criminal situations – but I find it laughable that western leaders celebrate the use of social media in countries like Iran and Egypt, but because rioters used it at home its use is something that needs to be ‘looked at’.
I’ve been reading a lot of really great articles on the London riots, including numerous pieces in TIME as well as a great piece by comedian Russell Brand. I’ve also read numerous reports on the other side talking about how what was missing in this situation was context – that in many cases, people were looting just to loot. Understandably, the political or financial motivations will be dissected at length, but I feel like those larger issues (financial inequality, cultural misunderstandings, etc) are the things that political leaders should be ‘looking at.’ It’s very easy to point the finger at a piece of technology or media (remember the outrage over the video game ‘Mortal Kombat’ or ‘Marilyn Mason’) – when there are much larger issues at play.
Social media is most certainly a tool of organization and coordination. And like other tools that can be used to rapidly share information in a decentralized fashion, they also rapidly disrupt the status quo (think Napster, BitTorrent, Wikipedia). My hope is that governments tune into these tools and look at them not as threats but as a way to also rapidly communicate with groups and people who may feel disaffected. Like it or not, they will be forced to respond to legitimate concerns faster than ever before. And all this talk of cracking down on communication makes politicians look even more foolish. Where does the line stop? With social networks? Cameras? Cell Phones? If past data is any indication – it will never work. The free flow of information isn’t something that needs to be looked at – it’s the sentiments that are conveyed within that information that need studying.