Opinion Piece: Freedom comes with responsibility

May 24, 2011

Sharon Baker, Co-Founder at agency:2

The views expressed are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of agency:2.

I may be unpopular within social media circles but I’m going to say this… I think it’s wrong that people can tweet about a famous football player. I think it’s wrong that on my Facebook feed today I was told countless times who the footballer was who had taken out a super injunction to protect his name. I think by citing parliamentary privilege to overturn a law simply because 75,000 Twitter users had already done so, MP John Hemming has set a very dangerous precedent.

Why? Because I believe that we need a legal system in a democracy which holds people accountable and regulates online spaces. When we don’t have law the result is anarchy, injustices and people power that becomes lawless. There are plenty of examples in recent history which show what happens when people follow the masses without thinking of what they are doing. With Twitter based in California there is also the question of which law is being followed?

Whatever you think about the footballer’s actions in taking out the injunction and attempting to sue Twitter users (and I believe this was an (unpopular) mistake) the law is in place and needs to be respected. While I do think that social media users should embrace their right to talk about what they want I also believe that the users and the owners of these sites have to have some responsibility to society and must take this into account before they tweet or update their status. The fact that Jemima Khan and Gabby Logan were also, incorrectly, named just goes to prove this.

Using the Wikipedia model could be the way forward. Wikipedia allows a user to have access to incredibly important information. It’s free; it’s accurate and is hugely popular. Wikipedia works because individuals take it upon themselves to make sure that what is posted is factual and accurate. The Wikipedia foundation has been developed to ensure it’s self-regulated. This causes people to think before writing and allows moderation that everyone supports because they believe in the community and the dissemination of accurate information. Maybe this is a model that could be replicated around other social media networks?

Popular networks have a responsibility to their societies. As for the law on super injunctions I’ll leave this to the lawyers – who hopefully still have some say in our democratic society.


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