Social networks good or evil?

The recent London riots have opened a can of worms, haven’t they? Not only about inequalities within our modern societies but also about the basic right of freedom of speech!

So, are social networks working for good or evil?


There are countless examples where the Internet has been used to support a good cause or help oppressed populations. The first significant movement I can remember was the global anti war protest in 2003: over 10 million people across more than 60 countries joined demonstration marches on Feb 15, 2003. At the time, the speed at which such a massive global event was coordinated seemed unreal. It was all thanks email forwards…  anybody remember that? 
Then, in 2009, the “twittersphere” colored itself green in support to the democratic uprising in Iran. Rings a bell?


But unfortunately the global power of social networks doesn’t stop here; there are also all sorts of other groups and expression facilitated by technology. The recent London riots are the most recent and most obvious application.  When I hear that David Cameron is considering a crackdown on the networks, I can’t help but think it would be censorship. Plus, as many have been pointing out, it probably wouldn’t stop the looters from getting organized anyways. Look at the Jasmine revolution: Egypt, Libya, Syria… censorship, even dictatorship didn’t stop those people from reaching the streets!

When you look at it closely, social networks are actually supposed to ban violent or threatening communications.
Facebook terms and conditions prohibit
“content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence”. It also stipulates that Facebook can “remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this statement”. The same goes for Twitter, one of its rules being “You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.” 

So the sensitive question becomes: Is it the role of social networks themselves to police content that is not compliant to their TsCs or let governments block access?

I certainly don’t pretend to have the answer, all I know is that we live in a world where social networking is a tool of mass communication and governments shouldn’t consider over power as a solution, or bandaid, against society skid. They should integrate those tools in the way they run a country; just like people integrate them in the way they run their lives….

This topic generates a lot of interest at the moment. There are a lot of articles about it out there; here are a couple of good ones:

Embracing social media for better or worse
Facebook and Twitter are not to blame for London riots

 Marie Sornin





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