The recent unrest in the UK and news of the New York Police Department setting up a social media monitoring team has many thinking the most democratic way of communicating in the history of man is under fire.
And they are correct.
The talk of censoring social networks and streams of communications during a time of crisis is utterly ridiculous. Just like many other parts of our society â€“ big business for one â€“ law enforcement and government are having trouble adapting to our new normal. Since the lines of communications are now owed by the people, these heiarchal and slow-moving entities are struggling with a loss of control.
That was evident over the past few weeks as rioters in Great Britain put that country on alert. British authorities decried social media as many of the unlawful looters and rioters used social networks to communicate with one another. The widespread use of channels like Facebook & Twitter frustrated the authorities and they talked seriously about shutting down access to those networks.
In raising the censorship of his citizens, British Prime Minister David Cameron moved closer to being more associated with Iranâ€™s bully Mahmoud Ahhmadinejad than the leader of a free and democratic nation. By even raising the issue, Cameron shows again that some ruling elite feel they have the right to control the flow of information in our modern society.
But we all know that isnâ€™t true. For every one example of social networks being used for unlawful and nefarious purposes, there are millions of everyday or positive uses. Cameron and his type are threatened by the free flow of information. As we witnessed in Egypt, social media can help move a nation toward democracy and can help other nations stay that way. To think otherwise is unwise.
Here at home where we continue to lose individual freedoms (especially via the abuse of eminent domain), law enforcement â€“ and the NYPD â€“ are now playing big brother watching Facebook for crime. Just like Jon Aderton in the movie The Minority Report, authorities want to use this revolution in communications to stop crimes before the happen.
The only problem with that is itâ€™s not democratic.
As a law-abiding citizen, I understand the temptation of law enforcement to use these tools like the NYPD plans to. At the same time, this desire to use the open communications between American citizens is not right. The Founding Fathers would not approve of such government interference nor tyranny.
As someone who uses social media as a citizen and as a professional, this development disturbs me greatly. While many worry about the corruption of social media by marketers, government control and censorship is more of a concern to me. Without the freedom to use these networks as we want, we lose our ability to speak for ourselves. We must fight any attempt at monitoring or censorship.
The very nature of social media and the freedom to use them lawfully as you choose is the essence of democracy in the US and abroad. We must do everything to keep the heavy hand of government away from these important communications channels.