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Control

Should social media be regulated and controlled? Should hardware and network providers be forced to open a one-way window for authorities to monitor the flow of conversation? These questions are once again being asked, as supposedly “civilized” societies erupt into violence, riots, vandalism, and hooliganism. (Vancouver Canada and London England both come to mind.)

In these cases, rioters changed the marketing concept of a flash-mob – a seemingly spontaneous song and dance event – into a crash mob – something more sinister.  Social media was used by the rioters to pinpoint where and when a new area was to be targeted – and sadly, people responded.

Beyond the argument for public order, proponents of regulation point out that governments already scan all phone and email conversations for issues of public safety and security. And in the private sector, emails are routinely scanned as well. Scanning encrypted messages sent from a  Blackberry is merely putting this platform at parity with the others.

Notwithstanding these points, there are a number of arguments that suggest regulation and control are inappropriate, and ultimately unnecessary:

  1. Social Media for the good argument:  The Arab Spring took root through social media, and was so effective at organizing the grassroots that the despotic governments shut it down. Providing a back door that governments can monitor, takes away a primary way for ordinary citizens to assert their right to free speech.  Social media empowers for good as well as for bad, but it doesn’t do anything unless a person actually uses it. Sadly, the gun lobby’s argument rings true here as well: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It’s how a tool is used that determines if it is good or bad.
  2. Essential freedoms argument: Most jurisdictions recognize people’s rights of free speech and privacy. By regulating this one channel of communication, we begin a slippery slope to a society that doesn’t value – or protect – any freedoms.
  3. Accountability argument: People should be held accountable for their specific actions using evidence that is lawfully obtained, without trampling the rights of the majority. In London there are 1000’s of video cameras that can be used to identify suspects. By questioning the suspects and examining their smart phones, police can work backwards to identify the organizers.
  4. Crowd-sourced justice argument:  At the same time that the bad guys were using their BlackBerry’s to organize, many bystanders were using their Smartphones to post pictures and videos online.  In the UK, the London police force had set up a web site of pictures and videos (no longer online), asking the public for help. And on Facebook, Vancouver citizens “outed” rioters as well (https://www.facebook.com/Vancouver.Riot.2011). More than anything else, these countervailing activities will reduce – or eliminate – the effectiveness of using social media for bad.  No longer is it possible to hide when Google, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube see all.  (As an aside, the issue of trial-by-crowd vs trial-by-court is a big one: what happens if the wrong person is “identified” as a perpetrator from a grainy Facebook photo?  The traditional justice system may catch this, but trial-by-crowd can forever destroy a reputation.)

I am not advocating the use of Social Media for unlawful activity, and believe fundamentally that anyone who breaks the law should be prosecuted to the full extent of that law.  And those who use questionable business practices should be exposed and suffer commercial loss.  But restricting  – and losing – freedom of expression  exclusively in one communication channel is inappropriate, and because of crowd-sourced justice, unnecessary.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

 

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com

www.108ideaspace
.com
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com

DOS, Windows, and Mac OS are all names of computer operating systems. They control the computer chips, memory, and give the computer its unique personality. While we are certainly not computers, we too are controlled by a system: a Brain Operating System.

Our BOS has a tremendous autopilot system: without even thinking, our heart pumps, our lungs breathe, and our eyelids blink. Our conscious minds do this automatically too: we go into “autopilot” when we drive home. We have our coffee at the same time each day… and get it from the same coffee shop.

At work, it is too easy to let more important activities – ones that need your brain – slip into autopilot. When this happens, initiative, innovation, and impact all suffer. Even worse, we sometimes put our personal relationships on autopilot, and begin to take other people for granted. Unfortunately, the “habit” of autopilot is one we get better at with practice.

Autopilot is a double-edged sword: it gives us a mental break from the repetitive, but at the risk of automating things that really do need our attention. Particularly at times of significant change, we need to know when to turn off the autopilot.

This week’s action item: Take one day this week, and upgrade your Brain Operating System by avoiding autopilot behavior. Take a different route to work, surprise your colleagues with recognition, and approach your “usual” tasks in an unusual way. Not only will you see things differently, others will see you differently too.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com

www.108ideaspace
.com
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com

Social Media Risk Takers

by Randall Craig March 17, 2009

Just about everybody has heard about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Avid users talk about connecting with family, networking with past colleagues, and meeting new contacts. Social media sites allow this to happen, and much more. You can post photos, blogs, “status updates”, job history, family relationships, event listings, and just about anything you can […]

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