Friday, April 27, 2012

Social media is breaking the law. Good!

Breaking the law is a good thing. I make a habit of it. Any laws  that exclude me, laws that say it cant be done, or “it must be done this way” all shout a message to me that says “Why?” Social technology can be very very useful in breaking the law.

The power of social tools is that they challenge established convention by providing mechanisms to by pass or lower the barriers or accepted or embedded behaviours that have served to create our very own “iron cage”. People can re imagine themselves into new roles, become things that seemed previously unthinkable. They can make connections and links that were once unlikely or impossible. They can collaborate across geographies and hierarchies. This means we can use them to innovate in ways we once never could, and liberate resources that can generate value that were once eternally locked up.

Of course this can be unsettling or uncomfortable but still, in my book, breaking the law is, on the whole, worth trying and a good thing.

Breaking the Law is another matter and you should be aware that social tools make this easy as well.

In the past few days we have encountered some serious breaches of the Law - notably through the use of twitter. I don't propose to debate the merits or demerits of the cases, simply to point out that it is incredibly easy to fall foul of the Law with social tools. Sometimes it is the fact that the Law has yet to catch up with changed behaviours that are now considered acceptable and mainstream. I look forward to fun that will be had with the absurd rules around the useof images on social channels from the grossly commercial Olympics.

Sometimes it is the international nature of these network that can be part of the issue, both for and against prosecution.

A lawyer recently opined that it is stupid, or unthinking or reactive tweeting that is often the cause of people falling foul of the Law. Its so easy to quickly speak ones mind and in so doing create a public record of a potentially illegal view, or breach long held confidences. Either way, when we become alarmed by the behaviour of a few individual numpties on line lets not get too carried away. As they say hard cases make bad law. We should stand firm against those that would use these examples as a justification seek to surveil and constrain the social networks and mass behaviours it enables. Social is by definition challenging the anti social conventions of the past two centuries. For me it is a positive. In the week we celebrate the anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout lets not forget there are many noble examples where mass off line actions have challenged bad Laws for the benefit of all.

So breaking the Law has its place too.