Thursday, August 11, 2011

social media - the rebirth of the Stasi

Having watched the Award winning "The Lives of Others" recently, and witnessing the knee jerk reactions to UK unrest, the two things come together in this article.

Here is an extract from a news article following the sporadic looting in the UK that occurred August 2011.

(1) "The use of social media in the unrest looks like a game-changer. But any attempt to exert state control over social media looks likely to fail,"

(2) "A much better approach would be to encourage and support individuals and community groups in identifying alarming developments on social media and even speaking out on the internet against extremists and criminals, and ensuring that the police have the skills and technical support to get pre-emptive and operational intelligence from social media when necessary."
Attributing the comments to an individual, is less important than recognising that if one person can suggest it, then it will occur to others also.

( I have added the numbering to help organise this post )

(1) Proactive monitoring of social media - what the UK is proposing

The only way to 'know' in advance is to monitor social media for keywords and other such broad brush markers - bit like the telephone network monitoring in less enlightened countries.

The question of "When we know they are..." is obviously a thorny one - does a judge get to verify the intelligence gathered is conclusive, or is it just guesswork?

(2) Encourage voluntary creation of groups of 'flaggers' on social media.

This is genius in a rather perverted fashion, and is where the phrase 'Stasi' came in to the article title.

To those not living in the UK, there has been deep cuts in the funding of charities and voluntary organisations.

( I am not going to debate the need for cuts or otherwise - I am aware of the arguments both ways )

So what can all the 'do gooders' who are without an occupation do now? Spy on their own communities of course. They probably spend a good deal of this newly spare time on 'Facebook' anyway, so why not put it to 'the greater good'?

If this does progress, then we have learned nothing from the dismantling of the Stasi in East Germany.

There is a long history of states becoming paranoid about unrest in difficult ideological or financial times.

Encouraging citizens to flag up their neighbours and social media 'friends' who might use a phrase, or have an opinion, they feel is suspect, is the start of a march back to Stasi society.

Notes and Further Reading:

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