With Social Media Comes A New Voice Of Freedom
June 28, 2011
The Fourth of July is a time when people get together for fireworks, backyard barbecues and boating. The tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back more than 200 years.
This freedom we have is a direct byproduct of the determination of our forefathers who worked to establish the United States of America as a free country.
The American Revolution was facilitated by a system of signals and word-of-mouth communication because the telephone wouldn’t come along for another 100 years.
Fast-forward to 2011 and revolutions are now facilitated by social media. The ability to congregate online, form communities and have real-time dialogue has given everyone a new voice -- a louder and more powerful voice.
The combination of social, digital and traditional media have moved dissidents from the underground, and assisted in movements such as the Arab Revolution.
This revolution started with the tragic death of a Tunisian fruit seller. Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the local municipal building as a sacrifice after he was mistreated by the local Tunisian police.
Bouazizi isn’t the first Tunisian to have taken such drastic steps in the name of oppression, but his death stood out because it sparked an uprising using today’s technology and social media tools to spread the word. His death and his mother’s protest were filmed, and the video was subsequently seen by various news organizations such as Al Jazeera. It began to spread all over Facebook and other social sites and one man’s voice and one mother’s pain united others.
We’ve also seen a number of Saudi women take to social media to defy the ban on female drivers in their country. A Facebook page Support #Women2Drive is a platform for conversation around their cause, including updates on 32-year-old Manal Al-Sherif who videotaped herself driving.
That video quickly spread and Al-Sherif was arrested and eventually released after pledging that she would not drive again. While her efforts ended with little change (for now), she used the power of social media to speak out and be heard by a broader audience -- once again, the broad, boundless reach of these viral channels.
People no longer have to feel alone.
Here at home, the whole concept of freedom, particularly freedom of speech, has become a topic as it relates to social media. Facebook has made some questionable decisions in removing content.
Last year, after a slew of complaints, the site removed (and then reinstated) Sarah Palin’s lengthy protest against a plan to build a mosque at the site of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.
Most recently Roger Ebert’s Facebook page was removed for voicing his views after “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn died in a car crash. His opinion (that started on Twitter and extended onto Facebook) sparked outrage.
While Facebook initially said Ebert’s page had violated the terms of service (Facebook Terms of Service do not tolerate hate, threats or obscenity), they later reinstated the page and said it “was removed in error.”
It’s almost impossible to imagine that social media can be censored and controlled. Everyone has the right to say and post whatever they wish. But with freedom comes responsibility and it should come as no surprise if you are judged by others or lose opportunities because of your digital debris.
There are people using social media for good in this country, such as Alabama meteorologist James Spann who tapped into every social and digital device he could to keep his local viewers informed during the deadly tornados earlier this year.
But for the most part, the Internet has been viewed in this country as an “unrestricted playground.” People say what they want regardless of the impact. It’s as if the subsequent apology to those hurt by ill words seems to excuse their cybernated slop.
For those using social media as a catalyst for good -- making the world a better place for those who will come after you -- you are the spirit of what our forefathers fought for. That’s the ultimate definition of freedom of speech.
Have you found a new voice online? How has freedom of speech in social media changed your views? Please share your views freely in the comment area below.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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