Every creation has an ugly side
Once again, I’m reminded of the wisdom that every human creation will have an ugly side. Youth workers in Northern Ireland are claiming tonight that the social networking site Bebo, now superseded in most circles by MySpace and Facebook, has been used by local youths as young as 11 to coordinate quite serious violence. This has prompted me to have a quick think about the future of Social Networking sites and our freedom to use them as we see fit…
Unfortunately this will probably result in calls for parents to harass their children over their usage of such sites and for greater monitoring of activity on them by police and other governmental authorities. While in this case, its possibly not such a bad thing, example like this do lead to all activity on such sites being condemned and monitored, which can only be a bad thing for the majority of people.
Its such a pity that people are so short sighted as to assume, once some kind of malicious use is reported, that the whole invention is malicious. Whether this happens with Bebo, or in fact spreads to Facebook, we’ll have to wait and see. Given the title of the BBC report, perhaps the entire Internet, way beyond the realm of Web2.0*, will be tarnished.
Ideally, these sites are free spaces where people can express themselves as they see fit, within the bounds of normal anti-hate restrictions. They provide an ideal location for discussing dissent, but all this could change. Its probably only a matter of time before the government decide they need to legislate to force site-providers to crack down and to have people arrested for using Social Networking sites in ways that challenge the political status quo. Thankfully, for now at least, this is a raw technology with lots of potential and few restrictions.
*Web2.0 refers to user-participation driven sites, usually using tagging and social networking. Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and blogs are all examples.