The Power and Danger of Social Media as an Engine for Change

A few days ago, #WhichHilary was trending on Twitter.  It was highlighting the various inconsistencies in Clinton’s current position vs her past positions and actions.  It was used heavily by Sanders supporters and various Republican Supporters.  It had A LOT of traction.

It was started by an activist twitter @guerilladems.  That account was suspended soon after the hashtag started trending.

The trending references were removed from Twitter.  Upon realizing that it wasn’t working, an alternative hashtag sprang up #whichhilarycensored.  That one disappeared too.

Twitter later said it was a mistake.

The Twitter CEO hosted a fundraiser for Clinton.

But it was a mistake.

Right.

Twitter and similar social media have been very powerful agents for change and political focus.  Everything from the Arab Spring to Ferguson gain energy and inclusion and focus through social media.

But these things happen on a very limited number of websites.  And those websites control the content.  So essentially what happens in the world is now controlled at the pleasure of the website.  At the pleasure of a very small number of people.

Its a terrible power to place in the hands of a human.

We like to think that the web is, for better or worse,  a truly democratic place.  Where the voices of the many can come together and express their similar views.  Voices that used to never be heard.

But ultimately they can only be seen if that website allows it.

People will blame Clinton and it is not unfair to do so.  I have a hard time doubting that someone in her camp didn’t make a call.  But the real power in this situation isn’t from the person begging the favor.  Its in the person who had the ability to grant such a favor.  A very powerful favor.   That favor represents more power than should be given to anyone.

I have always been a proponent of the idea that a website has the right to control the comments that happen on their website.  I would NEVER allow any sort of hateful comment to live on my blog.  I would censor it in a heartbeat.

But I have to question whether places like twitter or facebook have grown beyond the bounds of private gardens where individuals can control what happens on their sites.  Perhaps they are now a truly public forum, as much as a public park is and as such, perhaps it really is a place where the rights of free and uncensored speech apply.

What do you think?

 

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2 thoughts on “The Power and Danger of Social Media as an Engine for Change

    1. Or, as in this case, the political bias of the CEO. Censorship at government level is bad, but there is at least some way to respond to it. Corporate censorship – as you said, the only thing that will move them is money and shareholder interest. And that is a harder thing to grapple with.

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