The differences between what is public and what is private space are becoming more blurred as social media invokes its power. Any comments made public or private, anonymous or not could quite possibly end up on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as our need for instantaneous communication is fuelled.
Just look at the hot water South Australian Premier Mike Rann has got himself into over remarks he made at the Dimitria Greek Festival in November last year. Mr Rann has sparked international debate for his comments made about Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov for ‘stirring up trouble’ in a dangerous manner and trying to steal Greek history and culture.
While possibly said ‘off-the-cuff’ or even as a way to attract Greek voters in the upcoming election, I can almost guarantee that Mr Rann didn’t expect the comments to make headlines around the world. Facebook groups detailing the issue and publishing a video of Mr Rann’s comments have attracted fans in droves over the last few days as the discussion is fierce and passionate. This is where the immediate global community takes over and the power of social media strikes. So much so that Washington-based Macedonian Diaspora President Metodija Koloski felt it necessary to discuss the issue with Multicultural Affairs Minister Michael Atkinson here in Adelaide just a few days ago.
The power of the online social media community is vastly underestimated as exemplified in the state government’s recent attempts to censor political comment. After an absolute uproar, Mr Atkinson, Mr Rann and other politicians who initially supported the new legislation where forced to back track as they tried to distance themselves from the issue.
Yes we should be allowed freedom of speech without fear of online publishing and distribution but the whole point of the matter, is that we should be honest in any dealings of speech, whether verbal or published, online or not. How many people have been caught out ‘chucking a sickie’ because their boss saw pictures of them on Facebook living it up and partying when they were apparently oh so sick to come into work? If Mr Rann truly supports the comments he made in front of the Greek community, and believes he is making a valid argument (inciting hatred aside), he will stand by them in front of the Macedonian and wider community. Mr Rann would then have no fear of retribution.
Our politicians seem to forget that social media is not something to be feared. It is an online tool and community, where when used to its advantages, connects people in ways that 5,6,7 years ago were considered science-fiction.
Just take a look at the online activity surrounding the recent hurricane in Haiti. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations have exceeded $470 million in the US alone, thanks to the Red Cross texting campaign and Twitter tracking services communicating what was being donated as well as new information as it arrived. (Read more about this campaign here). This generosity of spirit was personified through social media.
Social media does not infringe the rights of people, it exposes truths.