I watched last night’s BBC Panorama about the fine line between the privacy law and free speech – the freedom our media has to report [almost] anything. I wondered if, in the week of the Iran election and an impending review of privacy vs free speech, social media represents a shining hope in keeping this gift alive.
If the many tweets from the likes of @persiankiwi and thousands of other Iranians desperate to let the world know what the government doesn’t, it would seem at first glance that social media has the ability to give us an instant, much clearer, more accurate insight into what is really going on in the world. The people are reporting what they see, instantly. Photos from mobile phones, tweets, uniting others through groups, and updates what they see show us so that we can see it through their eyes. The BBC is getting its breaking news from these services today – CNN was yesterday criticised for missing the boat. The downside is, as China did with Twitter in the aftermath of last year’s Earthquake, regimes have the option to simply shut down networks that allow people to propagate information. It’s up to individuals to find innovative ways of plugging into their networks – and they do.
So our privacy report may mean that the BBC and media groups may have to be more mindful of what they broadcast, but if it’s in our interests, I feel very confident that word will get out and find its way into the mass consciousness. As long as we don’t build our own “great firewall of China” that is.