The demonisation of social media

The last few months in the UK have seen a series of terrible terrorism acts take place. Multiple tragedies, needless loss of life of people from all walks of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the terrible events.

Some politicians appear, in these final few days of election campaigning, to be demonising the internet and social media, pointing the figure to the freedom of communication online as a root for these terrible events.

Let's be clear, social media is not the cause of terrorism.

What happened in years gone by? Bomb attacks in and outside Northern Ireland were not caused by social media. The horrendous events of 9/11 were not facilitated by Facebook and Twitter. Communication happens. If we give up our freedom to communicate online, where does that spiral of restriction end? Email? Are letters read before they land on our doorstep? Will our conversations be recorded, telephones and text messages monitored? 

Social media in an unfortunate scapegoat for politicians to point a finger at and declare 'there's the problem'. The comprehension that government polices and approaches to tackling extremist views appear to have fallen aside. Some corrupt ideologies may be communicated on social media, but is also done so on street corners, via print, the press and a multitude of other formats. 

The mainstream media, from the printed press, to the 24/7 TV news culture we live in, carries a weight of responsibility in respect of elevating the atrocities that occur and providing constant propaganda to fuel the ideology of people who seek to hurt their fellow citizens.

Social media allows us all to be our own media outlets, sharing views and communicating with anyone and everyone. This is a gigantic leap forward in connectivity, and for the most part it is a tool used to engage people positively. Whilst it may be used in some forms by people who's opinions we absolutely deplore, from US Presidents to terror cells the warmer reality is that of the billions of account holders use online social networks primarily to allow friends to connect, families to be in touch and customers to connect to products and services they wish to use.

Captured communication has advanced over the centuries, from stone to paper, morse code to telegrams, the telephone, post and now the digital revolution has provided email and social media. Just because it's the latest form of communication does not mean that it carries responsibility for any of the terrible atrocities we've witnessed. 

The demonisation of social media is, in my opinion, unacceptable. We must protect our civil liberties and allow everyone to communicate in the format of their personal preference. That should remain a priority as to deny this could fuel further restrictions on the freedoms that we are so blessed to enjoy.