Thursday, May 20, 2010

Provoke to Anger; Anger to Provoke

We're living in amazing times, a button click might be unheard in the room next-door, however, very meaningful in some other part of world. Digital revolution, digital divide. These were the buzz words at the start of this millennium. Ten years down the road, we're now faced with new issues, new problems after the 'Digital Iron Divide' has started falling down.

Internet has evolved, and matured, where now supposedly everyone has a voice. Every person can make a difference. A cartoonist in Denmark can provoke muslims round the world in minutes, and then the anger is channeled in mysterious ways. Admittedly, most of times, self-destructing ways. Raging with anger because of the obvious reason, partly because of the physical distance between the provoked and the provoker.

Free society is perhaps what internet is all about. But is it really free? I believe its another trick that nature has played on us. We're told its a free society, where freedom of speech is all we look for. Perhaps we forgot, there's nothing called free lunch in this world. Playing on someone's turf, and expecting the world be flat - ahh ... fool's paradise.

Social networking, obviously, has revolutionized in many ways. Communication has become much faster. We can stay connected with people in much much better way than we could before. Thanks Miss. Technology, thanks Mr. Bell, and yes thanks to Mr. Tim B. Lee.

Found with new media, and new opportunities, we now have a new breed of multinationals. Yes, I cannot drink twitter like I do Coca Coca, but we're not in 1970 either. This is 2010. Mc Donalds, KFC, Coca Cola, Pepsi have become part of common jargon, what to say of a privilege. Different world, different checks, different liberty, different freedom. Nixon went to China in '70s 'asking' them to embrace Coca Cola and let it do its business, but its 2010, now Obama, a black president in white house, goes to China 'pleading' the government to let Google do its job, save the US economy from suffocating by adjusting appropriate currency valuations. Different world, different actors, same characters. Its an era of Google, Twitter, Facebook shaping the world opinion, no more rhetoric by BBC, CNN, Reuters taken on the face value.

You must be thinking I've distracted and gone a little far from the topic, but no. We're talking of provocation and how it works now. How anger is channeled to provoke new trends.

I've a friend who was a big time supporter of all this freedom because of internet. He didn't say it, but I could sense that after God, the only thing he found worth worshiping was the 'revolution' according to him brought about by internet and 'free media'. To be fair, when he'd say it, I hardly had any solid argument to counter his appraisal of this so-called 'free media'. But times change, and one day he tried logging into his heavenly Facebook account where he was free to network, do all sorts of 'cool' things, the website posted a message saying your account is blocked because someone reported. He was shocked, surprised, taken aback with this, but thought maybe there's some problem or misunderstanding. He emailed them explaining his case, and didn't receive any response even after days. Then he requested them to give him access so that he can download all his personal photographs, videos and other data that he had shared on Facebook. Facebook never bothered to respond. I've not gone through their terms and conditions, but I know very well that terms and conditions of Facebook keep changing, and have gone from moderate to very harsh for a loyal user/'Facebooker'. This guy went very angry at all this, he'd just been stripped off all his personal data up there on facebook, which served as his virtual hard-drive for backup too. He's a good friend, and a very loyal customer, so Facebook gave up on him, but he didn't. My friend created a new account, and started his activities again. He still has that account and is enjoying, and will continue to do so untill the next time he encounters another message.

This case tells us about the concept of identity in this free world. This concept has been blurred to the extent that it hardly exists now. One person can have multiple identities. Above all, there's no standardization which sets the rules of business and the terms and conditions of agreement between a user and the website.

Recently, some organization launched a Facebook page, running a contest to draw caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This proved to be much more than that. A full-fledge, aimed campaign started against that page, and Facebook at large. It was seen as a direct attack on Islam, and to hurt the Muslim community's feelings at large. All this climaxed to a point when Lahore High Court, Pakistan instructed Pakistan Telecom Authority to block Facebook, and allegedly other such websites which were running such anti-Islamic content.

This was reported in media all over the world, as some sort of weird occurrence and an attempt to barricade the free flow of information across the physical boundaries that separate us in real. It surely has affected many of my countrymen's internet activities but has given birth to many new philosophical debatable questions. Some gossip at least. Amusingly, Lahore High Court wanted us to be more close to our family members, than sending 'pokes' to people we've never met and who're least interested in us - same conclusion reached by many when electricity shutdowns peaked last summer in Pakistan.

Facebook couldn't resist speaking out, coming out with a statement this morning

"We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don't typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas".

However, in the policy statement of this Palo Alto, California based organization said

"we want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others".

Can you people point out the inconsistency between the two statements? Do you think they contradict? I leave the conclusion to readers, but just for information, both are statements issued by the same organization.

This was the latest in the series of provocations in the so-called free media. Revolution. Everyone has a voice. Do you've a voice? Don't you think one day someone will report you and your account will be blacked out, and you be ripped off all your electronic belongings residing on someone's server? and if someone has been involved in such activities, does it mean he wouldn't do it again with a new account, new email?

My friends, a common man is at the end of day a common man. My phone conversations, my emails, my internet activities, are all being recorded. I've been ripped off my privacy more than ever before. Anyone can conduct surveillance on me. Your identity can be put in question because of someone else's conduct just because he used your name.

Let's not go between provocation and anger like having been stuck between rock and wall, we should understand what we're doing. Where we stand. We should be more aware of the fact that there're more triggers to cause trouble with all this free media than before. There're many questions that I've tried to bring forward in this blog, but I leave them to you to find out, and answer.

Q U E S T I O N M A R K S!