Coping with New Media

If Kapil Sibal has his way then the ‘offensive’ content on websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube shall be removed hereafter. Though it’s not yet clear how will these companies be reprimanded for the alleged violations, this is one of the latest controversies that new media and governments all over battle out every once in a while.

Still fresh in memory is the anti-social networking rant which was at its peak during the London riots early this year; the British capital and adjoining cities like Birmingham and Manchester had been paralysed. Those blamed were social networking sites especially Twitter, and Research in Motion’s Blackberry’s encrypted messenger service which was used by rioters to coordinate loots and show up in large number at malls, taking the police by surprise. MPs were at the forefront in criticising new media sites for bringing the wrath of young rioters on innocent public. However, better sense prevailed and the govt decided not to shoot the messenger by banning the popular social media and messaging services.

In another incident, in August, Facebook was taken to task when it had unveiled its revolutionary face recognition photo tagging system. Through this system, Facebook could auto tag users to a photo uploaded on Facebook often without their permission. The issue caused uproar in the European Union, and concerned with the violation of its people’s privacy rights, Germany initiated proceedings against the 800mn-user strong Facebook.

English: Kapil Sibal, Union minister in Minist...

Kapil Sibal

Not far from controversy was Google’s pathbreaking and widely used ‘Street View’ service which faced its first hurdle when it was fined $141,670 by the French government for inadvertently capturing personal data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks while collecting imagery for Google Street View. Street View collected imagery on streets for its services Google Maps and Google Earth but faced backlash when privacy groups protested against Google for capturing imagery of license plates, private buildings and people strolling on streets. Google responded by blurring some parts of these images but couldn’t escape the ire of the French government.

With new media controversies abound, it’s not easy to forget the numerous instances where social networking has come to help. Being increasingly used for coordinating safety and relief efforts, the new media is the tool of the masses. And masses often express themselves in unique ways, at times, weird and distasteful. That’s the way it goes.

Here is my article originally published in Daily Post, view it here

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