In the conglomerated, up-and-coming internet world of 2003, a new website was introduced into my life: MySpace. Little did I know that this business was going to be the pioneer of an informational revolution. The news media portrayed MySpace as a disgusting, uncontrolled area of cyber space where teenage antics run amuck; save your sons and daughters from the creeps! The uncontrolled area of youthful expression is a danger to our society of good order and discipline! Do you remember those news reports? I do. The reason why these reports stuck out in my mind is because they portrayed a stark contrast to what I knew this new social media as. It was a place where I could express my thoughts, interests, and feelings to others, a place where I found new lifetime friends as well as the old and my favorite bands. Eventually, the older generation caught on, and with the advent of Facebook, social media took off. All of a sudden the news reports were changing. I started hearing, “Follow us on Twitter,” and “Like us on Facebook.” What happened? Society was changing, social media was becoming a huge part of our lives, and we were – and still are — learning how to adapt. The main issue that social media has faced within the last decade is privacy and government interference.
In the summer of 2013, Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian) reported the most important story of our lifetime: secret mass government surveillance across the globe perpetrated by the National Security Agency (NSA). Everyone in the world soon learned that all of the information they were sharing on the internet was under the prying eyes of an invasive government. Associated Press reporters, the Vatican, and multiple government officials around the world have been targets of wiretaps. Millions of innocent citizens’ private lives are unknowingly being invaded by the collection of unlimited amounts of metadata through social networking and other electronic communication for an uncertain amount of time. We can only speculate as to what they do with the data and report on the activities we have found to be true.
According to Russia Today, the NSA has the ability to use metadata to track and exterminate targets via unmanned aerial vehicles AKA drones. A former NSA employee confirmed that the methods used to locate and verify the target are untrustworthy and the agency hopes that the person on the other end is, indeed, “the bad guy.” They use geolocation to track the SIM card in the cell phone on a specific target. Why is this important to Americans if they are only using the predator drones overseas? After all, they’re only targeting the bad guys! The reason why it is important is because there have been reports of great inaccuracies in the pursuance of these predatory endeavors. Civilians have been wrongly killed with inaccurate data. With The National Review reporting on suspects being arrested due to domestic drone surveillance via the local police, inaccuracy in data is something that could land you wrongfully arrested. Police stations across the United States are considering or currently are using drones as a method of criminal surveillance – something that has the great potential of being inaccurate, or even worse, abused.
Early this month, Turkish citizens found themselves unable to access Twitter. They later found out that their government suspended the use of Twitter for an uncertain amount of time. I read a blog written by a Turkish citizen on WordPress.com saying that the only way he could access Twitter was through the posts he made on WordPress. Wouldn’t it be something if Americans found out that the United States government temporarily banned Twitter under the feign of “national security?” There are other governments in the world, such as China, who censor what is able to be posted on social media and therefore use it as a means to acquire control over the populations’ ability to express oneself. This would be a direct violation of the First Amendment if something similar were to happen in the United States.
The beauty of the social media is that it gives us a chance to connect with those likeminded to us that we would normally never be able to meet otherwise. It keeps us connected to the people across the world. One example is from 2012, when the Iranian nuclear weapons “scare” was happening. Israel and Iran were about to start World War III. A group of Israelis made a Facebook page called, “I heart Persians,” as a way to protest their governments pushing them into war. Iranians started doing the same thing. There was a huge public outcry on social media which resulted in tensions between the two countries to ease. It would not have been so easy to do that with the way Israel and Iran’s diplomatic relationship is had it not been for the public disdain of another war. How else would word have travelled and action been taken so quickly? There is a social revolution amuck, one that will greatly affect future generations to come.
Who has seen pictures of babies on Facebook? Everyone. We love to see pictures of our younger family members across the country, it is a great way to keep in touch with your loved one’s life. One thing I find unsettling is that I have watched children that I have never met before grow up on my Facebook. Some of my high school and Marine friends that I haven’t seen in years have had children, and I love seeing them, along with their parents, grow up. Here’s why it’s unsettling though: the children did not have a say in whether or not the information could be posted on the internet. It brings a whole new meaning to “embarrassing childhood photos.” I can’t help but think sometimes when I’m scrolling on the screen, “I wonder what they’re going to say when they find out the government has been keeping track of their parents’ metadata their entire lives and therefore know everything about them.” They know when your kids got sick, what makes them throw temper tantrums, makes them smile, their favorite toy was, how they reacted to important life situations. Do we really want strangers knowing all of that information? To me, that’s an operational security risk associated with life itself. With Facebook’s new eerily accurate face scanners that can only get more accurate over time, I think this is an issue that needs to be talked about. What rights do children have in objecting to the publication of their lives? I’d say complete control, only if they knew. That’s why parents need to be careful about what they post about their children as well as what they post about themselves.
It is important for all of us to take responsibility for not only what we post on the internet, but also for holding governments responsible for impeding on any privacy or freedom of speech. We would not let strangers go through our homes, so why would we entrust in a government which uses deadly force under possibly inaccurate circumstances or violates the trust of the American people by collecting and analyzing their information? Why would we allow them to censor our speech? We wouldn’t, but only if we were aware of it, something that is happening to more and more people across the globe. Social media has and will continue bring change to the world, and the just will always succeed.