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Posts Tagged ‘global society

PositionDial is anonymous – if you want it to be.

Last night I attended an excellent event hosted by Involve at the University of Westminster – entitled ‘Technology and Democratic Participation – friend or foe.’

Involve

A point well made by Catherine Howe was on paying attention to the architectural layer, not just the application layer. And the ‘why.’ Including the choices we make about identity as we build opportunities to participate online.

I have spoken and written on the importance of anonymity and flexible identities online many times, and this is very much built into PositionDial‘s architecture.

PositionDial helps you work out where you stand, see who matches you, and explore the issues you care about. We have several levels of identity on site (and are at this moment building an even more super-secure identity system for y’all):

  • Anonymous – you can use PositionDial, and get your PositionDial, without registering with us or logging in. We use cookies to remember you and help you build your dial as you browse from page to page. But we don’t store your IP address. So there’s no way of us storing your activity or your PositionDial with your location or identity once you close your browser window.
  • Pseudonymous – You can register with any username you like / or Twitter – we don’t force you to use your full, real name
  • Full name – but if you don’t mind, we’d love you to know your real name. We’ll only use it for keeping in touch and making  PositionDial better for you.

Transparency is the only way

There’s a lot of valid, and invalid concern about data sharing and privacy on social media and discovery sites. Transparency is of course the best and the only way to handle this.

For our part, PositionDial offers agencies, charities, businesses and others analytics and insight into where their target customers, stakeholders and partners stand on important issues (we strongly believe this is win:win, if ‘they’ know better, they can do better for all of us). These analytics are based on aggregated, anonymised social PositionDials, and aggregated action PositionDials (from data about MP voting and companies etc. which is already public).

In other words, we would never, and have no reason to, share any personally identifiable data about you.

Furthermore, as stipulated in our privacy policy, we would, as Twitter and others have done before, closely interrogate and strenuously resist outside requests to access your data.

You also have the right to be forgotten (by us). That is, seriously, even if you’ve signed up and got your PositionDial and it’s all saved nice and neatly in our system. If you want out, we’ll delete you. Simples.

Image credit: Triple Pundit

Reposted from PositionDial’s blog

Rob Manuel gave what seems to have been an impassioned defence of “the bottom half of the internet”, saying that “troll” had become the equivalent of “chav” — a word used to demonise and silence people who don’t have power. Rob’s argument appears to echo the joke of defining a “troll” as “the least famous of two people arguing on Twitter.” Rob seems to have equated the disdain felt for the “proles” by the upper echelons of society with the disdain felt for the “commentards” by the chattering columnist classes of the media.

Rob Manuel via Martin Belam

technoutopianism. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’ve changed, but in so many ways you haven’t—and I see you more clearly now… you’re selfish. You never really wanted what was best for me, or for any of the rest of us; you wanted deregulation and radical individualism, wanted us out of your way so you could take the whole world—the Whole Earth—for your playground. Hawai’i is for lovers, and your shiny silver future was only for a network of the already privileged and powerful. You got a taste of “the Long Boom”; we got “likes” and LOLcats.

Whitney Erin Boesel

This appeared in a Daily Mail piece yesterday in relation to Sally Bercow’s latest mis-tweet. (Bercow - whose Twitter account has now been sucked down the memory hole - had identified an under-aged person in a tweet that a UK court order had banned from being named.)

I’d just like to focus in on the unnamed ‘legal experts’ here stating that using Twitter constitutes publication. In my view it is rather odd and irresponsible for Sally to have named the person in the way she did (and if this was knowingly done, is clearly in ‘contempt of court’). But overall, I maintain we need different rules for sharing and discussing on social media.

On social media, individuals should be treated as citizens, with special protections for their freedom of speech and right to share, until they write or speak with the authority of a collective, institutional platform.

First of all, because restrictions on public civic discourse are generally harmful and counter-productive, and secondly, because collective media institutions have a special legal status (and usually access to far superior legal counsel) which means they can be pursued by authorities (and wronged individuals like Lord McAlpine) as institutional collectives.

Without separate rules for individuals on social media, people will frequently foul of the law at great expense just for airing their views or unwittingly sharing problematic items they have come across in public environments or from bigger media. Or fall silent – and we surely don’t want that..

This is the read-write-edit web, and when we make mistakes, we are told. We are told by our followers, our fans, our enemies, by people we’ve never met, from all around the world. We can correct ourselves, and be easily and swiftly corrected online.

Lord McAlpine, there’s no need to sue so many of my fellow tweeters, we’re all over eachother’s mistakes, and we will lose so much more than we gain as a society if your action means we start pre-emptively restricting what is shared. It is unimaginable to be accused of something so terrible as you have been, and I can only sympathise with the unfortunate situation you find yourself in. But you and your lawyers should take into account Twitter’s unique properties as a peer to peer communications platform, and high value for our civic present and future, before threatening it, and quite specifically threatening the act of reacting to a television programme, discussing it, and sharing what has been said by others (a standard and highly popular way of using Twitter in the UK).

Previous moral panics and outrage about incorrect information being posted on the web have been countered by the fact that as quickly as false information is passed around the Internet, so too is it corrected. Quite famously, this has been used to demonstrate the value and accuracy of Wikipedia as an encyclopaedic resource. And stands in stark contrast to the slower method which has to be used in print media: printing a correction in a subsequent edition to apologize for any error.

Lord McAlpine, I’m afraid your case is one for all of us who care about UK civil liberties to watch as it risks being muddled by those who neither use Twitter or understand how it is used and / or are driven by ruling-elite-political posturing, quite specifically in relation to Sally Bercow – a tweeter whom it is no secret that your side (the Tories) of our political spectrum love to hate. It would be a travesty for us all if this adds up to fundamental curbs on the way Twitter is used in the UK – via legislation and self-censorship driven by fear.

Last week this small commentary that appeared in London’s Metro newspaper shocked me – declaring that internet service providers (presumably Robin Thompson means Twitter here(!!) not the people who run the pipes) should give right of reply (a journalistic pre-publication norm) before something is tweeted – in other words, we may as well pack up tweeting altogether as I’m sure Twitter would rather flip the UK switch off than become some sort of uber-real-time-editor-in-chief-on-steroids. 

In my view, (and, granted, this may be quite obvious to Twitter-natives, but let’s remember we are a statistical minority), we need different rules for social media, because social media is different. And indeed there are some in development at the moment for the UK.

We must beware of the traditional lobby which will straightjacket the democratisation of public political discourse online just as it is beginning if we are not very careful.

We must make the argument and fight for a legislative environment that facilitates a world where everyone can be informed and critically thinking citizens… citizens that make mistakes, of course, but mistakes that should be contrasted with those made by institutions, and mitigated by the fact we can quickly apologise, and put them right.

We must win the argument that it is a better media environment when we can have our eyes and ears and mouths open, and unprecedented capabilities to communicate with one another.

Sure, we should be responsible. But we should cater for errors in different ways when it comes to public, peer-to-peer discourse. A good rule is individuals should be treated as citizens, with special protections for their freedom of speech and right to share, until they write or speak with the authority of a collective, institutional platform.

Libel laws in the digital realm should be focused on policing institutions, or failing this, at the originator of offensive online materials, not on everyone who shares or discusses them.

Our rapidly evolving communications environment may distribute more widely the potential for error, but it also redistributes our chances to learn fast, to hear others, and to be corrected. We don’t need to be gagged Lord McAlpine, we all knew the story was wrong, really, really fast. So please end this revengeful race to the bottom, for all our sakes.

Image Credits: Censorship image by Tyler Menezes; Twitter illustration by Edwards McGowan

Last weekend I took part in a Cambridge Festival of Ideas panel discussion on whether we are being ‘sold online’ alongside Michal Kosinski of Cambridge University, Professor Bill Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute and Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch.

During this I proposed that practitioners who deal with collecting, processing, analysing and sharing social media data can operate according to a simple principle, to weight privacy in favour of individuals, and transparency towards institutions. For indeed, such responsible data dealing is essential for attaining and retaining trust in 21st century institutions…


Delving further into what this means in practice I put forward the following framework, which can be used by marketers to clearly document and ask questions of social data usage:

Best Practice Data Dealers Recipe Card

Note: my recipe card is loosely based on Tony Benn’s five questions to power


This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

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