With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

I routinely make myself unpopular by railing against the view that we don’t need Social Media (SM) policies. I have thought about it a lot recently, it┬ástrikes me that it is the wrong question. As usual, I was looking the wrong way.

A better question might be, how do we ensure that we use the great power of SM responsibly?

We face a moral and ethical challenge of the type we always face when new and powerful information technologies emerge. The printed word caused a bit of a stink in its day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_during_the_Reformation

We must continue to release the great potential of SM to connect communities and enable, for example, mass collaboration. It is breathtakingly effective and incredibly enjoyable.

We must also learn when and how we might cause damage to the well being, reputations and lives of others. I will spare you the endless list of recent ruin. Each of the many recent examples demonstrates that people and corporations cannot yet apply conscious good judgement, let alone instinctive common sense.

The answer will be complicated and will take time, this stuff is still new. Sorting it all out will be worth it.

If we do need corporate policies then they are at best only a part of the answer. We must have a robust debate about how to use SM, about what is right and what is wrong. We will have to evolve things painfully from there. Most will embed itself in our culture, but the basics will get put into laws, regulations and then end up in some policies to protect the innocent and ensure accountability.

The extent to which we employ each approach will vary from country to country and industry to industry. It is not a choice between any one of these. All will come into play. Each is necessary. None are sufficient.

I’d love to know what you think about both sides of this argument.