This is an extract from an essay collection, just published on the Kindle, called `Notes From the Margins.‘
In this one, I look at how social media was hijacked by trolls, both professional and amateur and an ever growing band of Twitter and Facebook Police squads now trawl social media, looking for easy peasy convictions. The net result is that anyone with something to lose in life; career, mortgage, relationship, reputation etc. simply doesn’t dare express any type of opinion on controversial subjects. Freedom of expression is being surrendered voluntarily, because we live in fear of a careless tweet costing us everything we have worked for.
Here’s a brief extract;
THOUGHTCRIME IS ON THE HORIZON
But the saddest truth of all is that social media networks once empowered those without a voice to speak openly, not especially in Europe and the USA, but in countries where dictatorships held sway, and that brief flame of free thought, and speech, has been all but extinguished.
Look at the Orange revolution in Ukraine, the fall of the Mubaruk dynasty in Eygpt, or way opposition to regimes in Libya, Tunisia, Russia or China has used social media. Ideas were debated, demonstrations planned on FB, Twitter or other networks. News travelled faster than conventional TV and radio news organisations could disseminate it. Think about that tipping point when Sky News, the BBC and other networks began using hashtags in bulletins and trained their old fashioned reporters how to use Twitter, Blackberry Messenger and other tools to gather news faster than before. In that moment, social media changed the world because it empowered the voiceless. People became their own editors, en masse, arguably for the first time in history.
Yet that wonderful blossoming of free speech has been eradicated by government censorship, as the rise of IS has prompted all kinds of government agency spying. There is also a sinister acceptance that social media is intrinsically `bad’ amongst the general population. It is being painted as a hiding place for troublemakers, terrorists, stalkers, trolls, would-be lone bombers etc.
We now have a new willingness to denounce others. Recent UK government orders to public sector workers that they should `blow the whistle’ on colleagues is just the start of it. Soon, within a decade or so, Orwell’s vision of people spying on their work colleagues, neighbours and friends, and then accusing them anonymously, will become reality. Those who see `abuse’ on social media and refuse to alert the authorities by ticking a box, will find themselves accepting a Police caution, which means they will fail a CRB check for the rest of their working lives. In the last three years (2011-14) some 300 people in Wales alone have had legal action taken against them by the Police for comments on social media.
That is the second reason why free speech is being abolished; your career is at risk because of ONE ill-thought remark, or a click of a `Like’ button after one too many beers. This is a censorship by implied threat on behalf of the state – tweet at your peril, you may lose your job, pension and the roof over your head. So shut up. Nobody, except the very rich and powerful, will dare to speak out on social media in ten years or so. The danger of financial ruin, perhaps even jail, will be too great.
You are free to post endless `Je Suis Charlie’ photos online, but should you dare to express a strong view on Islamic extremism, obese children eating too many Frosties, gay visitors at boarding houses and so on, you may be arrested by the social media Police. In the end, we will only be free to speak about trivia; celebs, sport, fashion, soaps – the dull, palliative opiates of our culture.
You can buy the full collection of waffling essays, covering topics like the inexorable rise of an Islamic Caliphate, the strange crucifixion of Jeremy Clarkson, or how angry white guys with Go-Pros spoiled cycling for everyone, here;