When you can you don’t.

This May Mark Zuckerberg is turning 30. The average Facebook user is around 40.  In 1980, before Facebook creator was even a twinkle in his father’s eye, when the average Facebook user was playing happily in the school playground, an obscure academic at the University of Aston in the Midlands, wrote a very prescient book called “The Social Control of Technology”.


In it the author explained what has come to be known as “The Collingridge Dilemma”.  David Collingridge’s insight was that we can successfully regulate technology when it’s relatively unpopular and new.  However at that point we don’t know what the consequences of that technology are, so we don’t know how to regulate them.  By the time those consequences are apparent our ability to regulate is much less, as the technology is now used by many with no controls, and regulation is difficult and unpopular.  He wrote “When change is easy, the need for it cannot be forseen;  when the need for change is apparent, change has become expensive, difficult and time consuming.”


It, of course applies to lots of social media, where the consequences of the lack of regulation have resulted in freedoms we all celebrate, and also behaviours such as cyber bullying and trolling that we surely all deplore.


Regulation of global media by local governments seems unlikely and unfeasible.


The consequences of social aren’t only unforeseen to good citizens however.  The news this month in the Sunday Times that “Facebook posturing” is helping the Mexican police to “nail drug barons” shows how quandaries about information sharing work both ways, we don’t want our own personal information to be accessed by the authorities, but if we accept that it can be perhaps more bad guys get locked up.


The Sunday Times reported that younger members of Mexico’s drug cartels, who have grown up with Facebook, have allegedly posted pictures of stacks of cash and silver and gold plated AK-47 assault rifles captioned “partying and taking care of ourselves”.


A DEA spokesman is quoted as saying that the social media activity helps law enforcement to “join the dots”. “I would not being doing this if I were them, but then nothing surprises me.”


It’s a very personal decision for each of us of course what we choose to share publicly.  Surely we will increasingly all echo the thoughts of that anonymous DEA representative about our personal network as the urge to post, share and tweet, becomes more and more like second nature to us all.


And so Collingride’s Dilemma will evolve from regulating too soon being too early, to regulating at all being redundant as we either take more care over what we share ourselves because the consequences are too painful or we accept everyone shares everything and so is naked in the spotlight all the time.


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