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4 Years for posting on Facebook? Fear or Enlightenment?

4 years for posting a Facebook event does, on the face of it, seem a pretty emphatic statement. This particularly so when, by all accounts, this rather ineffective post is considered against the extensive broadcasting, and re-broadcasting, of the moronic and inarticulate ranting of a couple of Croydon teenagers describing the rioting as “fun” attracts no apparent censure for the broadcaster and, as far as I have seen, no consequences for the two girls.

One is forced to consider that one of the factors in play is the fact that the accused, and now convicted, parties used a Social Media platform to get their message out.

So rather than reflecting on the justification or otherwise on the severity of the sentence passed, I wonder if it tells us something about what level of understanding of Social Media mindset exists in those in the corridors of power, and tasked to deals with the terrible events of last week. There is certainly a sense that Social Media is regarded with fear, but does that trepidation spring from ignorance or understanding?

So is Judge Edwards the sort of chap who asks if Facebook is “a popular beat combo” or is he inclined to want to tweet his judgements from the bench using an app on his smart phone?

I would be the first to declare that social media tools are liberating a social media mindset that is a powerful engine for change. And I welcome that. There is a historical shift in the power of individuals to organise and aggregate their actions together to great effect. Many of the structure and norms that have grown up to administer and control society are now cumbersome, ineffective and in some cases obsolete and can be effectively challenged by the pace and nature of social media and the mindset it taps into. These structures can have valuable roles in providing society with frameworks within which it can function and can be defended and amended to sustain societies’ fundamental infrastructure, and we should perhaps be rigorous in challenging genuine attempts to destroy rather than reform them. However in some cases these structures and institutions have become unintentional constraints on social mobility, social justice and the tools of vested interests used to sustain positions of privilege and inequality. It is in these later areas we should embrace the impacts of Social Media, and from that we have little to fear.

People’s ability to conceive of themselves in different guises as spokesmen, advocates, journalist’s campaigners is transformed by these changes and we should embrace the possibilities this presents, and do so from an informed position.

Can Social Media be used for evil intent? Most certainly. But in my experience they have been used for positive social good that far outweighs the odd occasion an idiot uses them for wickedness. Let’s not forget the old adage ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.

It is the uncontrolled many-to-many nature of the communication that is a concern for those tasked with administering institutional framework, particularly if they are unable to either use the social media environment effectively themselves, simply don’t understand it, refuse to recognise the positivity that social media can bring, or who perhaps fear change. This leads to irrational anxiety and so enhances the possibility of a robust response.

I do not express an opinion on the sentence, my concern is more if the tariff was driven more by fear or enlightenment. In truth I don’t know, but if the judiciary want a bit of advice – give me a call.

Does make you wonder what might have happened had they used Google+ or Myspace or ……….

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