U.S.-based social media companies are used to the concept of bearing no responsibility for what users post. But as tech executives, the U.S. government, and domestic media have all given varying amounts of credit to social networks for the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, that separation of user and network is already in danger in some parts of the world. And that means the reality of realpolitik may settle in at offices throughout Silicon Valley.
In Russia, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry proposed laws to make social network owners responsible for what their users post on the services. According to Andrei Soldatov in The Moscow Times:
Apparently, the idea is not to incriminate the owners of Facebook and Vkontakte of extremism personally, but to force them to pass responsibility on to individual users by requiring each to sign a contract that includes their passport information.
It's not that a cause and effect relationship need be shown beyond a reasonable doubt, he argues. If the media and western politicians assume that there is a link, so will the Kremlin, which wants to end the possibility of an uprising before it could happen and has even considered registering social network users.
China has been even more vigilant and peremptory in dealing with fears of online-enabled turmoil. Then again, there are significant suspicions that the country may have been involved in security breaches of corporations.
Of course, U.S. government calls for Internet freedom haven't helped reduce an authoritarian backlash. That won't end because Internet companies are uncomfortable with the attention. So, large and small, they have to get used to living in a world that doesn't necessarily agree with their importance in the grand scheme of things.
- U.S. Call for "Internet Freedom" Could Rebound on Google, Facebook
- Chinese Hack Global Oil Industry and Other Business; What Else Is New?
- Google Executive Freed in Egypt: The Fallout for the Company
- Google and Twitter Do Some Good for Egyptians -- and Themselves
Image, courtesy Al Jazeera English