It is worth remembering that the explosion of the Internet was in part prompted by a donation from one Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist who decided that the World Wide Web would be gifted to humanity – a decision that cost him uncounted billions in profits he might have made by selling it.
I mention this a year after a furore broke out over Facebook’s decision to demand that users register with their “authentic identity” on the social network, by which the company meant your legal name.
This was and continues to be a problem for those wanting to use the social network under an assumed name, a group that includes victims of violence, political campaigners and transgender people. Apparently it also affects certain ethnic groups whose naming conventions don’t match up with the standards Facebook has set.
As such a so-called Nameless Coalition is campaigning to convince the social network to reverse its policy. Writing in an open letter online, the group said:
“Facebook maintains a system that disregards the circumstances of users in non-western countries, exposes its users to danger, disrespects the identities of its users, and curtails free speech.”
For its part the social network claims that the measure is necessary for security reasons. In a statement to the press an aptly nameless spokesperson for the company said:
“While we know not everyone likes this approach, our policy against fake names helps make Facebook a safer place by enabling us to detect accounts created for malicious purposes. It makes it harder, for example, for terrorist organizations to hide behind fake profiles, school bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behaviour.”
Of course Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are under considerable pressure from governments as a potent comms channel for miscreants. Over the last year security forces in Britain and the United States have been open in criticising Silicon Valley for its adoption of encryption, the boffins being more concerned about user’s privacy than spooks’ ability to pry.
Whether drag queens are a genuine security risk is a matter readers will be able to consider for themselves. But Facebook’s dominance on social media (its users number 1.5bn) is now exposing them to a regulatory quandary – when does a privately developed technology become so essential to life that it falls into the public realm?
“Yesterday I received an email from a mother who is a survivor of domestic violence and prefers to use a pseudonym to safely avoid her ex; she told me she uses Facebook primarily as a means of connecting with other parents whose children have disabilities and have endured abuse. After trying to explain her situation to Facebook’s bot-like customer-service team, she – like thousands of others – is now cut off from very vital support systems.”
As Lil Miss Hot Mess goes on to say, Facebook is a corporation, and ultimately concerned about the bottom line. It’s inaccurate to say that the social network is “monopolistic” – indeed, its competitors are the likes of Twitter and Google – but demands that social networks have a public responsibility will only rise as people increasingly use them.
Silicon Valley is not without a sense of public duty. But it is also full of ambitious people wanting to make big bucks and maintain control of their babies. Reconciling these impulses will be a key political battle of this century. And for my part, I’m hoping more people will fall in line with Berners-Lee.
Image Credit – The Demise of Facebook, March 2013 by mkhmarketing
Social media groups were criticised by a parliamentary forum for displaying autoplaying videos of the shooting of two American journalists on live television on Thursday, in the latest pressure on Internet companies to conform to government whims.
Users of Facebook and Twitter complained they had been exposed to the attack on WDBJ7’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward in their feeds due to the widespread practice of embedding videos that play without prompting, a policy intended to increase the views and advertising revenue of online video.
Matt Warman, chair of the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (Pictfor), told the BBC: “Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others have already worked together with government and regulators to prevent people being exposed to illegal, extremist content, using both automatic and manual techniques to identify footage.
“Social media, just like traditional media, should consider how shocking other content can be, and make sure consumers are warned appropriately.”
Following the shooting, which took place on Wednesday, the gunman took to social media to post a clip of the attack he had apparently recorded on his smartphone, which was then circulated online, prompting the complaints.
Twitter and Facebook autoplay videos made me witness the murder of someone from multiple angles today. Good job technology
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) August 26, 2015
Classy act coming out from all the news outlets now posting the video of their murder on Twitter, where it autoplays.
— Matt ‘TK’ Taylor (@MattieTK) August 26, 2015
Though both Twitter and Facebook took down the relevant pages in short order the film and clips from the live broadcast are still readily available online.
As such I have decided to embed the clip below, as it is absurd and insulting to a reader’s intelligence to discuss a piece of embeddable media without giving them the opportunity to view it. This decision is solely mine, and does not necessarily reflect the views of others in the Right Dishonourable.
Snuff movies have become an increasingly prominent feature of social media over the past few years, most notably with the beheading of James Foley by Islamic State in August 2014, a clip of which circulated online.
The distribution of such clips is often criticised as fulfilling terrorists and mass murderers’ propaganda wishes, as well as upsetting the victims’ families. Some studies have indicated media coverage can even inspire copycats.
Image Credit – Twitter offices, San Francisco by Aaron Durand