I have mentioned some issues I have with social media in previous blogs. This is largely based on my Twitter and Facebook time lines. I am sure it happens on other sites.
Many far right and far left leaning political parties use it to post divisive and blatantly untrue stories. I offer a few instances.
It is Poppy selling time in the U.K., for remembrance day on 11th November, and one such post declares that the wearing of Poppies is offensive to Muslims, thus fanning the racial tensions here. This is untrue. I am sure similar posts in the USA and Europe are also designed to marginalise law abiding minorities. Every country has it’s militants and activists among immigrant populations but most are law abiding and respect their new home. Similarly the indigenous population have extremists who want to sow discord. There are many such stories designed to further the agenda of militants on both sides.
I get lots of posts from both sides of the right to bear arms issue in the USA. All due respects guys but this is irrelevant here and in most other countries. I know which side I am on but my opinion is also irrelevant.
LGBT rights, Race issues and activists on every other issue you can think of find an uncensored, free and global platform on these sites. I know that some people passionately believe in what they post. if they offer reasoned argument and leave me to make my mind up I have no objection. It is those posts which present a scenario, which may or not be untrue, but which is presented in order to dictate a conclusion that I object to.
But, hey, I am intelligent, I have common sense and most of this stuff I am quite happy to scroll past. Even porn (More prevalent on Twitter!) presents me with no real problems. Sadly there are many who will believe everything on social media and will happily propagate the lies by Sharing, Like’ing and retweeting. If we get a ‘Don’t Like.’ button I will probably use it more than most but those who believe and spread all these stories will continue to do so.
My pet hate, on FB particularly, are those who post about some emotive issue and invite you to like or retweet. The idea is you are accused of being heartless if you don’t. Another variant is that offering rewards or threatening dire events if you do, or do not, say Amen and like or retweet. These are just insecure individuals who make themselves feel better by means of the Likes and so on they receive. They delight in bullying you into providing them or ridiculing you if you don’t. I will choose what I respond to, How dare they presume to know me enough to call me uncaring because I choose not to click a link? I choose what I care about and how I show it. Rant over.
The latest issue, though, is a little more problematical. Someone has cottoned on to the idea that social media can be a crime busting tool. With the ability to upload video (Security Video for instance.) we can transmit actual crime footage of the offence, and thus enlist the aid of a global detective network. This is good but some just post a picture of someone and claim they are guilty of a crime, We don’t all have security cameras after all.
Still it’s all good. Anyone who knows the person will contact you to aid in their capture and maybe bombard their timeline with some well chosen words of abuse.They will know that Facebook are on the case.
You may have heard that we have something of a paedophile problem here. largely it is historic charges, may of the perpetrators are dead or extremely old but it does raise awareness of this issue. Many people will pass on messages from local schools about people seen hanging around them. Some even report attempted kidnaps. I have no doubt that these people are genuine and agree that it is a good thing. It has to be said that these posts may not be all that new though. I have seen six month old posts do the rounds again and again. I tend to trust the local ones more than those from other towns and cities. I also go for a walk locally on a route that passes a school nearby and often worry that I will be reported, despite the fact that I am only getting a little exercise.
One other type of report is usually accompanied by a screen grab from FB or Twitter showing the profile of a member (Normally male!) and posted by another member (Normally Female!). The text usually accuses the member in the picture of grooming a child online, ostensibly warning other parents about them.
However, I am rambling as I tend to do, and I hear you all mumbling something about getting to the point so here goes. Most of your friends on Facebook are not friends but added for other reasons like games. Many are total strangers. Added to that, the posts you receive which are shared by people you DO know ensures that many posters ARE unknown to you.
So, if one unknown person is accused of a crime by another equally unknown person, how can you know either of them well enough to be sure of the facts. The accusee could be a really nice person who has unintentionally upset the accuser. It could be an ex-partner who has an issue about access to the kids. It could be that they have cheated on the accuser, by no means right but not deserving of blackening their name on social media. Worst of all it could be a bully using this media to humiliate the victim.
But it is the results of the allegations which worry me most. Firstly, many will find the appropriate profile and flood his/her timeline with abusive messages. Then again some may try to IM them if they are online, ensuring they dare not log on. Lastly, if they are vulnerable (Specially in the bully/victim scenario!) they may well try to self harm or kill themselves. If the allegations are about child abuse this could get extremely nasty. Feelings run high about that.
So we may well have hounded someone off social media and maybe to their death. I would like to believe that all these posts are genuine but if I know neither of the protagonists how can I be sure of the accuser’s motives or the accusee’s guilt. Social media used as a tool of law and order is a good idea, but unless I know those concerned, or see some proof of guilt I will leave well alone. The post may only be a tool of vengeance. That is truly a shame but not everyone tells the truth on Social Media.