Social Media as a Safe Space


This week on Facebook: It seems that however careful you are in your use of the internet it’s wrong to assume that you are in a safe space. This is particularly true if you interact with the social media and assume it to be the bastion of free expression that democracy allows. The  free expression and the rule of law assumed by you may not be interpreted the same way by others.

Just as the law should not attack thought, it should also be slow to proscribe speech or expression simply because it is capable of causing offence. Free Expression and the Rule of Law

Social media sites appears to exclude free expression and the rule of law by policing what can be expressed on them, additionally the police themselves now monitor the content of social media sites on behalf of the State¹. Making a connection between social media and safe spaces has been difficult, mainly because actions to suppress free expression and the rule of law invariably result from a minority of social media users. Their complaints generally eliciting little support — for or against them — from the majority of social media users who appear to be indifferent regarding any actions taken to suppress free expression and the rule of law.

Nevertheless, users of social media do sometimes profess their support of free expression and the rule of law by a quote attributed to Voltaire and whichever version of the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller that they have found. I very much doubt that even Voltaire would be prepared to die defending an opinion that he disagreed with, nor do I draw the inference that the poem of Pastor Martin Niemöller reflects its user’s ethos. Quoting either Niemöller’s poem or Voltaire is not speaking out against the actions of the State  or against the media, who both clearly abuse free expression and the rule of law. Meanwhile, I remain ostensibly inactive, lacking the courage attributed to Voltaire and instead assuming the passivity of Niemöller in thinking that whoever they take — they will never come for me.

Monday: With Power Of Social Media Growing, Police Now Monitoring And Criminalising Online Speech — Like all technologies that threaten to subvert prevailing authority, social media, along with the Internet generally, is being increasingly targeted with police measures of control, repression and punishment. Just like mass surveillance does to the Internet, this is all part of an effort to convert these new technologies from a potential tool of subversion into one that further bolsters governing power factions. [January 2015]

Tuesday: When You’re Popular, You Don’t Need Freedom of Speech — The vast majority of speech being “regulated” today is simply that of an unpopular opinion. But, in using force to silence others, anti-speech crusaders are making another argument. They’re arguing that political force can and should be used to silence people we don’t like. What idea could be worse than that? [September 2015]

Wednesday: How social media is changing the way people commit crimes and police fight them. —  The isolated acts of ‘reading the newspaper or turning on the television’ have been replaced by the collective experience of posting, tweeting and ‘going viral’.   The result has been the shifting of audiences from passive to active participants and to performance emerging as a common characteristic of media content.[January 2016]

Thursday: The Internet is Becoming a Safe Space — Internet trolls, be gone! Popular publications and social media sites are stepping up their censorship of interactive spaces, shielding the delicate eyes of the common commenter from every kind of digital taboo, from spam to hate speech. [February 2016]

Friday:  Met Police: Armed Wing Of The Offence-Taking Industry —  The Metropolitan Police unit that specialises in racial and religious hate crimes seemingly does its investigating by trawling Twitter, effectively becoming the armed wing of the online offence-seeking industry.[March 2016]

It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude. (Aldous Huxley)

In 1949 George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher Aldous Huxley in which Huxley wrote, ‘Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.’ 

I doubt if Huxley and Orwell envisaged their respective dystopias morphing into a world where social media has become the drug of choice for the masses and the means of mass surveillance by the State. Perhaps the servitude of Huxley’s Brave New World can be loved when viewed from what is thought to be a safe space, it becoming a haven where the servile live in their hope that they will never be brought to account as Winston Smith was in Orwell’s 1984.

I was going to post the following link to Facebook and decided against it. The link itself seems safe enough but the site that it provides information on doesn’t and while I would claim not to be a conspiracy theoristin the case of PeekYou I am. Should you decide to open the link available to PeekYou I suggest that you are putting your own notional safe space at risk. PeekYou searches the internet and stores bulk data on any tweets, etc you have made, where you live, who you might be related to, your age, your police record, links, etc, all on display and easy to find by anyone who cares to search.

Oh! And I don’t believe the OPT-OUT service, believing instead that as soon as you use any aspect of PeekYou you unwittingly OPT-IN to their bulk data collection. I suggest that anyone searching for information about you automatically creates an OPT-IN for the searcher and the searched, as does a self search and while an OPT-OUT on PeekYou may hide information from a public enquiry your data remains in the public domain. I am of the opinion that even doing a self-search results in your data being stored by PeekYou if it is thought to have any commercial value. Of course this data may not be available to the public if you OPT-OUT but it could be sold to interested parties. Then that opinion may simply be what has become my paranoia over the internet, and especially social media, as a safe space.

 ¹ Policing In An Information Age (pdf)

One response to “Social Media as a Safe Space

  1. Pingback: State Surveillance | Aasof getting serious!

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Hello, I’m Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, and this is my website. Blogposts, stuff about my books and a little bit of music

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An Anthology of Short Stories

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