Social media and The Lives of Others… Stasi Media?

Have you been getting the feeling that you need to be very careful what you say online  for fear the police or media will take things the wrong way and land you in a load of unnecessary trouble? Especially knowing that what you say will be stored on a big database by your social media provider for years to come, whether in the UK or USA?

Do you feel a constant subtle pressure to make sure that what you tweet, post on Facebook or your blog is positive, constructive and could never be construed as ‘extreme’ left wing or supporting terrorism – for fear the digilantes[*] will come and get you?

In short, have you considered installing a Daily Mail editor in your head?

Well I’ve a word (well, OK, phrase) for this process:

Stasi media

I think it’s a new one. I think it captures the sense of all-pervasive surveillance and the need to be careful what you say about certain subjects, even to your close friends.

Stasi Media

Remember, Facebook isn’t private, and its not just the advertisers to get to peek at your conversations.

</paranoia>

Update 1: To be fair, Robert Fransgaard blogged about something very similar a year ago, so maybe I can’t claim originality after all. Damn

Update 2: [*] Updated to include a link to Robin Wilton‘s own neologism: ‘digilante’.

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About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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2 Responses to Social media and The Lives of Others… Stasi Media?

  1. Well, it is a growing issue so absolutely worth picking up again regardless of whether I have written a similar post or not 🙂

    It warrants the question: When will a company emerge that offers to clean up people’s digital footprint in order to give them better chances of getting a job?

    Funnily enough I was recently nominated and accepted as part of Capgemini’s Expert Connect which means I am officially tweeting on their behalf, but our social media guidelines can basically be summed up as: “think before you tweet”. But prior to that I was tweeting on behalf of myself without interference, Now I represent the company but they trust me to tweet responsibly.

    This is all down to trust (or lack of) on behalf of companies and not understanding the new world that has hit us all so incredibly fast.

  2. Hi Robert – thanks for the feedback and congratulations on your nomination!

    Good points about individuals feeling the need to wipe clean their online past – which leads me to think of another couple of films: Erasing David (as recommended by Robin Wilton) and I guess more indirectly: creating a business model for a kind of digital version of Lacuna Inc. from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    But coming from my background of researching e-participation and issues around participation in political processes, I see a system issue too: Fear of the comeback of expressing a political opinion must already be closing down the space for democratic debate… and I think that will in the lead to bad (or even worse) governance.

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