Monday, May 7, 2012

Social Media: The Debate on Freedom and Responsibility

Defining social media Social media is a web-based platform where people share information, thoughts and activities. Social media has overtaken pornography as the number one activity on the web. According to Wikipedia, social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue ( The term Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centred design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web ( Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services and web applications. The news site, Indymedia was formed after the anti-WTO movement started in Seattle in 1999. Later the news site opened 120 branch sites from Boston to Bombay (Beckerman, 2003). The reporter-activists of Indymedia do not believe in objectivity. They believe that no journalism is without bias and the mainstream claims neutrality to mask these biases. If the Seattle incident gave birth to Indymedia, 9/11 popularised the blog. The Iraq War increased the number of bloggers. This proves that bloggers want to express their opinions of major global incidents, and in many cases they provide instant information regarding the incidents. Thus, they play the role of citizen journalists and respond on behalf of humanity and to the greater causes of majority people. According to the blog search engine Technorati, there were 133 million blogs from 2002 to 2008. Every hour, 0.9 million blogs are posted in cyberspace ( Though not all, but a significant number of blogs are run by strong activists. Several bloggers around the globe have been arrested for writing against repressive governments. And recently, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been added in the row. Though these sites were introduced to offer casual friendship, they were used as key components in the contemporary Arab Spring. The social networking site, Facebook was introduced in 2004. Just six years after its inception, the number of Facebook users crossed 500 million (now 800 million). It has become the third biggest 'country' in the world (Fletcher, 2010).