Does the West Now Learn From Dictatorships?

Limiting Access to Social Media . . .

No_SocialMedia

Does the West now mimic the behavior of some Far East governments and some of the other dictatorship regimes? The same circles that a short while ago praised the role of social media in the uprising in the Middle East are now calling for mechanisms to locally block access to some of the communication channels like Blackberry.

“Prime Minister Cameron’s desire to be able to shut down social media immediately provoked both applause as well as derision. For example, some Liberal-Democratspoliticians—who are members of PM Cameron’s ruling coalition—have called the move a “knee-jerk” reaction to the situation. They also warned of a political split over the issue, especially over what they view are the harsh penalties for inciting disorder via social-networking  sites. For example, last week two men were sentenced to four years in jail each after admitting they tried to use Facebook to incite others to riot. In both cases, though, no one seemed to have followed their calls for illegal action.

Stop diconnection/Mandelson image from the Ope...

Image via Wikipedia

“Other organizations, like the Open Rights Group, which says it campaigns “to preserve and promote your rights in the digital age” also has been critical of Prime Minister Cameron’s position. It has called his move “unwarranted” and has created an online petition to oppose it.

“Should governments—democratic or not—have the authority to shut down access to social media sites (or wireless service) in times of trouble? Or is allowing that authority the beginning of a slippery slope that can be used by governments anywhere to justify their interruption for other reasons under the pretext of impending trouble?

A flash mob, or 30-minute crowd-gathering, cre...

Image via Wikipedia

“Would it do any good anyway? There have been flash mob attacks reported across the US this summer. How effective would restricting access to social media be in stopping these, and what about the collateral damage to those not involved but still negatively affected, like those unlucky BART riders a few weeks back?

“Should access to social media be considered a fundamental human right, or is that just a techno-utopian dream bubble that the requirement for public safety should be able to pop?”

The latest edition of IEEE Spectrum where the previous quotes are taken from discusses this in more detail.

In the meantime the storm on the actual discussion in the UK has deflated somewhat–see references below. But the issue remains.

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2 Responses to Does the West Now Learn From Dictatorships?

  1. I like your articles. Thank you for your effort.

  2. Erhard–thanks. Now I know that I have at least one reader ;-)

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