The Curse of Social Media and the Internet

In the aftermath of the terrible coordinated
attacks by suicide bombers on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka that killed more than
300 people and wounded about 500 in churches and hotels across the small
nation, the Sri Lankan government took the extraordinary step of shutting down
social media platforms, including Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter, in order to
prevent the dissemination of misinformation that might incite even more
bloodshed among its various sectarian groups.

This decade has seen the spread of social
media that rightly might be compared to an out-of-control wildfire. What
initially was seen as an innocuous manner of sharing information among friend
groups — think of friends sitting around a camp fire telling stories — has
turned into a raging inferno whipped by the winds of greed and hatred that is
destroying everything in its path.

Say what you want about the recently
released Mueller Report, what is beyond dispute is that it shows that the
Russian government used social media through coordinated bot attacks to spread
misinformation among large swaths of the American public who utilize these
forms of media. In short, the Russians are using social media to undermine our
democracy.

The attacker in New Zealand who committed
the atrocities in two mosques drew his inspiration from social media postings
by right-wing organizations and individuals from around the world and then
posted his carnage live online. It was hours before the social media companies
were able to take down what he posted, but by then the damage had been done and
his carnage had been viewed around the globe.

In some respects, these abuses of online
platforms by those who wish to spread fear and disinformation are just the tip
of the iceberg of the curse that has become the Internet.

There is no such thing as privacy for
anybody, unless you live under the proverbial rock. Everything we do on-line is
tracked and establishes a profile that can be used — and misused — by those
who are keeping track.

The Chinese government is showing firsthand

how the Internet can be wielded by a malevolent government (and non-government
actors) to control both unfavored opposition groups and individuals.

The Chinese are employing facial recognition
software to identify every person in their country — a monumental task in a
nation of a billion or so people — but it already is being used to keep track
of, and suppress, minority religious groups.

The Chinese government also is issuing a
“score” for every person in the country — think of it as a credit score, but
taken to the nth degree — that ultimately will rank every person in the
country on a scale of social and economic acceptability, creating a hierarchy
that will determine a person’s lifelong fate.

It also is clear that the internet has
become the new battlefield among nations and others. Who needs nuclear weapons
when a hostile government or terrorist organization or criminal enterprise can
disable a nation’s energy grid or wreak havoc on the financial system or hold
individuals and businesses hostage simply by employing malevolent software?

America’s military might — our trillions of
dollars worth of aircraft carriers, stealth bombers, and drones — is no match
for a computer virus or worm that attacks our nation’s infrastructure.

George Orwell, in his novel “1984,”
describes a dystopian future in which the government, symbolized by Big
Brother, scrutinizes every human action with the aim of creating conformity
among its citizens.

Orwell wrote his novel in 1948. It is ironic
— and incredibly prescient of Orwell — that the internet as we know it today
was beginning to take shape in 1984.

It is clear in 2019 that the world Orwell
predicted in 1984 has arrived — and we fear that things are going to get a lot
worse before we figure out how to get this Frankenstein monster under control,
if we ever do.

Credit – 

The Curse of Social Media and the Internet

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