Social media puts reformers at risk
Two pieces of news this week show that social media is not such a liberating force as we had hoped.
- A Facebook user in Iran has, it seems, been killed by Iranian security forces for his entries; and
- A social media commentator in Bahrain has been jailed for offensive remarks about the regime.
I am sure there are more, not yet reported.
Everybody can see
The “Arab Spring”, also called “the Twitter Revolution“, which employed social media so much held out the hope that social media was a liberating force. But those who said so forgot that everybody can see what is on social media: including the authorities.
It was not the media itself which helped the changes in Tunisia and Egypt as much as:
- The poor use of the authorities there to monitor the social media and to use it to their advantage: and
- The reluctance of the authorities to use enough force against their opponents.
Iran advanced in social media monitoring
The Iranian authorities are very advanced in their monitoring of social media and the counter measures. They seem to have passed some of these skills to the Assad regime in Syria. As Syria now shows, we can get lots of detail about the attempts to change countries. But if the authorities are willing to use enough force it can lead to a bloody stalemate.
Never look to the technology alone to liberate: it can be used for either side. And the repressive sides are learning how to use it.