Mariamz

Posts Tagged ‘liberty

some [Facebook] users with many subscribers will be notified through their profile of the option to verify their identity… There’s no way to volunteer to be verified, you have to be chosen. These users will be prompted to submit an image of a government-issued photo ID, which is deleted after verification. They’ll also be given the option to enter an “alternate name” that can be used to find them through search and that can be displayed next to their real name in parentheses or as a replacement

Josh Constine

A few weeks ago I saw Wael Ghonim at LSE speak about his new book Revolution 2.0. I found the talk most enjoyable – his authenticity and passion were a pleasure to listen to. The discussion afterwards was mainly on the political situation in Egypt – understandably given the session was run by the LSE’s Middle East centre (not the Media and Communications school where I recently studied).

But when I fortunate enough to have the chance to ask a question I dived in with a social media one… asking him about anonymity in relation to his administration of the Facebook page credited with being a catalyst for the Egyptian revolution… given the success he described with bringing people together would have been impossible if real names were used throughout the process (he had mentioned earlier that working with others on the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page .. they did not reveal their true identities to one another during several months of organising). I also cheekily asked that he comment on the Google+ policy on real names in relation to this vital civic question..

Wael did not answer at great length – he said he was not on Google+ (nothing if not apparently honest to a fault!?) and that anonymity on the Facebook platform did not matter so much to his activities, since whilst running a Facebook page no one can publicly see who the admin is. He also said he trusted that Facebook would not have done anything dangerous with his data… that they could have traced him via IP anyway (I will cover this in a later post).. and he trusted the platform would not have misused what it knew about him.

I was grateful for this answer – but to pick back up on it… I would argue our brief exchange leaves wide open a rich and urgent territory for consideration in relation to online participation, democracy and identity:

  • In a short-term ‘revolutionary’ situation – using a social platform hosted in one country to discuss issues, organise and challenge the state of another may well be highly possible (for now)
  • But anonymity / pseudonymity which enables citizens to develop understanding and contribute to political commentary (particularly over extended periods of time) without fear of judgement or consequence from peers, colleagues, employers and state powers is not being built into the major social platforms in popular use by the mainstream in western democracies (for example, when you comment on the wall of a Facebook page – your real name is publicly visible)
  • As Sanna Trygg, myself and many others have argued, online comments can contribute to healthy public debate in general and open our media up to a more diverse and democratic discourse
  • However any social platform which stores real identities with political commentary may be used as a ‘technology of power’ which enables users’ opinion and interest data to be used against them for state or commercial purposes
  • Furthermore, contrary to the attitude of much ‘big media’ towards lowly unidentifiable commenters, on average, it has been found that online participation using pseudonyms often results in higher quality participation than that conducted using ‘real names’

This indicates the need for urgent attention to ways in which identity can be handled differently, more sensitively, by all using, designing, hosting and regulating participation online. If anonymity / pseudonymity as an option is more valuable and indeed safer for individual safety and liberty in any online forum where critical civic dialogue takes place… the case must be made and won, the software adapted and norms altered… while they still can be.

Legislative bodies at both the national and EU level need to ensure… that press freedom is ‘mainstreamed’ across all initiatives so that advances in one field are not undermined by developments in another. A particular area of concern is the potential impact of anti-terrorism legislation at both the domestic and EU levels, which, if inappropriately applied, could give security services extensive access to journalists’ materials or contact details, thereby restricting their ability to obtain information or even putting reporters’ lives at risk.

Rachael Craufurd Smith and Yolande Stolte (PDF)

“We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy”…. Rovio sees it as “futile” to pursue pirates through the courts, except in cases where it feels the products they are selling are harmful to the Angry Birds brand, or ripping off its fans. When that’s not the case, Rovio sees it as a way to attract more fans, even if it is not making money from the products. “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.”

Mikael Hed via  Stuart Dredge

Since September journalists have been arrested at Occupy events in 10 cities around the U.S. Due in large part to these arrests, the United States plunged 27 spots in Reporters Without Borders’ 2011 press freedom index. The United States is now ranked 47th in the world for press freedom

Josh Stearns

Silhouette of lovers at sunset

I got chatting to a young man, a friend of a friend, the other night. He slowly revealed to me a love affair he was in the early stages of enjoying. But insisted I keep the precise details from our mutual friend. “Because of Facebook.”

The relationship had complications- her divorce is in progress, a young child involved. The man didn’t want our friend to know about his mystery new girlfriend - not because her awareness would be difficult in of itself, but because he worried she would post light-hearted but revealing comments on either of their Facebook walls – that the soon to be ex-husband might see.

In sociological consideration of social media we often contemplate how we censor ourselves in online environments, to avoid comebacks in our professional or social lives. This phenomena arguably results in docile digital users, who temper discourse, consciously and unconsciously, in fear of those watching (with albeit an unequal gaze) who might not approve.

With the imminent switch to Facebook timeline for all users – we are more conscious than ever that what we say, and have said in the past online, may have real-world implications and consequences.

Boy in hall of mirrors

Yet another aspect of this digital/social panopticon is how we adapt our offline activity and discourse, mindful of what might appear online. How we adjust and keep the reality of our lives from social media connections in the ‘real’ world, because we worry about what they will share.

Couple at sunset image via tripadvisor and hall of mirrors via Kulturbot


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