For many decades power has been slipping from the hands of ordinary people.
For the last thirty years the power of global finance and big corporations has increased. The power of these giants even dwarfs most Governments , who often act as in intermediary between big business and the Mr and Mr Average, sadly taking the side of big business more often than not.
Against this backdrop many people around feel an increased sense of alienation and helplessness to affect their own lives. The decline in political party membership and voter turnout are testament to this,
Social media has been a revolution for street democracy. The use of Twitter and Facebook have united scattered people all over the country, and in places such as Egypt, Syria and Libya, where the Arab spring has emerged. While other media channels are very restricted like the BBC, or owned by global corporations such as Sky, social media is free to anyone with a modest amount of technology.
The power of the new social media was clear when News of the World became engulfed in a storm or popular public protest. Very quickly campaigns to protest about phone hacking spread. Lists of the main advertisers were quickly distributed, and soon these companies were inundated with emails. This resulted in the close of the paper. In an age when people feel powerless, the best selling paper in the UK was brought to it’s knees by ordinary folk with computers and smart phones.
Here is a quote from ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’ by David Harvey (2005):
“The state typically produces legislation and regulatory framework that advantages corporations, and in some instances specific interests such as energy, pharmaceutical, agribusiness etc. In many of the instances of public-private partnerships, particularly at the municipal level, the state assumes the risk while the private sector takes most of the profits. If necessary, furthermore, the neoliberal state will resort to coercive legislation and policing tactics (anti-picketing rules, for example) to disperse or repress collective forms of opposition to corporate power. Forms of surveillance and policing multiply: in the US, incarceration became a key state strategy to deal with the problems arising among discarded workers and marginalised populations.”
Quite clearly, social media represents a threat to the Government and corporations. They can’t censor it or control it.
Like any media, it can be used for good or for ill. Any limitations applied to it based the potential for ill should be rejected, as every media known to humans has the same issue.
Following the riots, it has been raised that blocking social media at times could help the police. I fully expect an attempt to control it.
We must stand up and not allow this to happen. Any attempt by Government to do this must be seen as an attempt to limit free speech and democracy.
With Twitter and Facebook in our hands, the people in the UK have a powerful democratic tool at their disposal. We must not give it up without a fight.