While the year is still relatively new, people are busy making all sorts of prognostications for what the next 12 months hold in store for technology in general and social media in particular.
One thing is certain, that the brouhaha about press freedom, privacy and the ability and right to publish whatever whenever will rage on. And on.
MPs on the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have proclaimed that it is ‘pointless’ to regulate the press by law when people can spread ‘slurs’ on the internet in seconds.
The falsely accused of child abuse Lord McAlpine has been extracting apologies and payments from the hundreds who tweeted that he was a paedophile. He has said he is determined to make the ‘twittering fraternity’ think twice before posting online any malicious messages about anybody.
Twitter Revolution Slowing Down?
After seven years, with millions of global members (10 million in UK) and credit to helping out in several North Africa uprisings against dictators, Twitter is facing a crisis and a dilemma.
It’s a remarkably simple idea, but it muddies the waters between private and public in a way that is becoming untenable. London Mayor Boris Johnson dancing at the Olympics closing ceremony was most tweeted event in 2012 and Barack Obama saying ‘four more years’ the most retweeted, both fair enough.
An individual citizen expressing a few strongly-held views with friends at home, in the pub or by letter is one thing. Publishing them to the entire world and media is quite another. And if the tweeter has a large following, then it exacerbates the event.
People’s private thoughts turned into mass public feeding, has by and large been acceptable to all parties. Companies use the genre to promote goods and services. Amusing gossip, mashing up ideas to make sarcastic, satirical comedy is a by-product of the tweet.
However, now it has crossed the line into people’s private worlds that have no business being exposed without proper legal process and proof, it will not be allowed to go on. A caged Twitter is not going to be popular, but that is what may come.
And people will have brought it on themselves. The Speaker’s wife, Sally Bercow, a notorious Twitter addict, was one of may high profile tweeters in the McAlpine scandal, and she whinged that she was being a ‘poster girl’ for the Twitter lynchmobs’. But as many commentators pointed out, she invited it, in effect.
This affair has already cost the once-respected BBC a very short lived (but expensive) Director General and a reputation for probity and quality journalism that will take years to restore.
This is a German word which has no exact equivalent in English, but basically it means ‘the enjoyment of the misery of others’. And those who have either been victims of social media or just don’t like its assault on the concept of personal privacy, are enjoying seeing Twitter-holics squirming on the hook.
However much regulation comes, people cannot wash their hands of responsibility for their online actions. And that’s got to be a good thing.
Anonymity on the web cannot exist, everything is there, somewhere for eternity. However, many trolls and unpleasant, twisted people do seem to get away with harassing people, though gradually the law and the enforcement agencies are tackling them.
Free speech is to be valued (which is why so many people are rightly opposed to the plans to monitor every person’s every search online, every web page viewed, every conversation through email and mobile). But freedom without responsibility is the road to damnation.
People have learned that they may come to regret posting photos and messages on Facebook as relationships change. If Twitter doesn’t start generating responsibility, a ‘think before you say something you may regret’ attitude, then it’s days of a free-flying bird are numbered. Law makers will shoot it out of the sky.
Anyway, that’s my view. What’s yours? Either post a comment here or put it on Twitter….
Related blogs on MBF:
All That Twitters is No Longer Gold, 3 September 2012
Policing the Internet: Everybody Wants to Do It, Nobody Will, 10 October 2012
Internet Memes Are Sometimes Fun with a Satirical, Serious Purpose, 25 September 2012
Will Your Digital Afterlife Make a Good Novel After You Are Dead? 10 September 2012
Who Actually Owns Your Social Media? 19 June 2012
A New Evil from Sick People Stalks the Net, 11 June 2012
Can a Price Be Put on Twitter? 6 June 2012
Image: Troy Holden