Truth needs a soldier, Justice needs a warrior

The Internet was young. These were the brief and timeless words of the Mentor. It was the Conscience of a Hacker:

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I
screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…
Or feels threatened by me…
Or thinks I’m a smart ass…
Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.

And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through
the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is
sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is
found.
“This is it… this is where I belong…”
I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to
them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…

That was how it was back then, when the Legion of Doom reigned, The Internet nothing more than a collection of networks for academia, and hypertext markup language wasn’t even a mote in Tim Berners-Lee’s mind.

Now we’re here.

A world reclaiming the name, hacker.

Wait.

Where exactly is here?

Clay Shirky described “here” as “the single, largest increase in expressive capability in human history.” He mused, “It isn’t when the shiny new tools show up that their uses start permeating society. It’s when everybody is able to take them for granted.”

Aquino Facebook fanpage debacle
Does over 15 million users, and roughly 9 million monthly uniques translate to technology taken for granted?

Those were Facebook’s stats in the Philippines. It now has 18 million users in the Philippines according to Facebakers. Facebook is easily the number one destination from the Philippines, according to Alexa.

Who would have thought that some of us would be riled up, petitioning for the resignation of Philippine Presidential Communications Group Secretary Sonny Coloma, and calling for the renewal of honest and decency in the Presidential Communications Team?

The petition came on the heels of Ben Totanes’ blog post, “PNoy, you have lost one die-hard supporter.”

Totanes ran Noynoy Aquino’s Facebook fan page when Aquino ran for President. He was a loyal Aquino volunteer. He crossed the finish line fighting battles as a loyal soldier of Aquino’s campaign.

Facebook takes down pages that are set up by an unauthorized individual. The matter isn’t even a question that the president shouldn’t have control of his own fan page.

In this case, Facebook determined that the page, “Attacked an individual or group.” What riles people up is that the Totanes-ran page spoke of the democracy we all hold sacred. The page naturally contained many criticisms. There were reactions, criticisms and discourse on that closed page. Isn’t it the people’s right to express their grievance?

Some of those criticisms and reactions, not exactly the most coherent, but this is the Internet! It has everything from alt.sex to troll slayers. As Glee Willis put it, “It’s a family place. It’s a place for perverts. It’s everything rolled into one.”

Facebook did not just turn off the page, but the social networking company began transferring fans from the Totanes-ran account into the Philippine government-ran account.

We’re talking about more than two million fans on that Facebook page. At a base of 15 million (based on June 2010 FB stats) that was roughly 14 percent of Facebook’s Philippine population who liked Aquino’s fan page.

Very sneaky.

There is only one way for something like that to happen. An official correspondence from the Palace to Facebook, with a request made.

Shouldn’t it irk you? If you liked Aquino’s fan page during the campaign, and then quite suddenly migrated to a different page, even if it was official? Should people be given the option to transfer to that account?

It isn’t the first, nor the last time that Facebook would do questionable things.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal asked Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg this question during D8, “The real issue here is whether people trust that you are still on board with the idea that they thought you were on board with when they joined: That you will keep the information they want to be private, private. But you’ve done some abrupt things and forced people to do something to maintain their privacy settings. Why are you making me have to take steps to protect my information?”

Zuckerberg dodged the question and talked about “serendipitous connections that Facebook enabled.” That’s how the liveblog archive described Zuckerberg’s response.

Then again, Facebook has always been dangerous. The game play as the digerati point out is for Facebook to make a big land grab for the Internet. And everyone is letting them.

Veteran technology pundit, president and founder of the TWiT network— the world’s largest podcast network— Leo Laporte said in episode 245 of This Week in Tech, “when Mark Zuckerberg says, open, he is not really saying, the open net, he is saying open as long as it is going, all going to us, so and you know I don’t think that regular users will get this, but it, because it seems very nice and simple, well they are going to put a like button on websites, anybody can run the Facebook like button on their website, and when you press like if you are logged into Facebook, it will automatically go to your news feed with a – and who wouldn’t want a little plug on the news feed, and then you can aggregate the likes, you can aggregate the comments back on the original site, what’s wrong with that.”

Controlling pages, arbitrarily transferring “likes,” is an affront to the open web. Users simply are at Facebook’s mercy. The content you publish on Facebook is there even if you delete the account, and later on choose to return.

Facebook is the gated web, where control is centralized and filtered.

Laporte would add, “I can tell you right now, the conversation we’re having is being held only by a few geeks who even understand what all of this means. The normal world would just say, oh, that’s cool, a ‘Like’ button. Big deal.”

If Facebook is inherently evil, is social media evil?

The wisdom of the crowd

The Department of Tourism campaign, “Pilipinas kay ganda,” was recently described by social media as “fail.”

On twitter, the hashtag, #helpDOT sprang up in response to Pilipinas kay ganda.

Examples?

@DaphneOP retreated, “RT @pinoyako11: @DaphneOP if it’s getting this much backlash, just revert to the old logo “the gap” logo change controversy #HelpDOT”

@moffywee tweeted, “from Adobo: Get cracking, creative Pinoy. Your country needs you. DOT D.I.Y. #HelpDOT http://fb.me/xK1jzu1x

@TeamManila “Branding the Philippines (in an Increasingly) Flat World http://bit.ly/duWwXd #HelpDOT”

Talk about consumer emotional attachment to brands and logos.

Can you trust crowd wisdom?

How wise are crowds? MIT news office published:

in a paper to be published in the Review of Economic Studies, researchers from MIT’s Departments of Economics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have demonstrated that, as networks of people grow larger, they’ll usually tend to converge on an accurate understanding of information distributed among them, even if individual members of the network can observe only their nearby neighbors. A few opinionated people with large audiences can slow that convergence, but in the long run, they’re unlikely to stop it.

Where is this social media taking us?

PNoy and the media writer Alexa wrote, “While media has it’s own faults, sensationalizing news that shouldn’t be, it’s the people who want it. Scandal and gossip after all is what sells to begin with. Let’s be honest enough that times have changed. What is showbiz and personal is what sells. Filipinos after all are into entertainment so that’s what media gives them.”

I disagree with this.

It isn’t just a problem in the Philippines, it is a problem elsewhere. In America, Jon Stewart recently gave a speech during the Rally for Sanity. He said something crucial, something important that this whole world needs to think about.

The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists, and racists, and Stalinists, and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned! You must have the resume! Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult–not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker–and, perhaps, eczema. And yet… I feel good. Strangely, calmly, good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us, through a funhouse mirror–and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist, and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead, and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin, and one eyeball.

Word-doodling took an anti-antipinoy stance because verbaldoodling was taken. It was a piece criticizing the Anti-Pinoys for their logical follies. He isn’t the first, nor the last to see those logical follies.

That’s the world we have here isn’t it? Or is it?

We have an entire universe of information, of diverse views and opinion.

In the world of journalism, the ethics of that profession demand that all views should be equally shared. That no matter how base and demeaning it could be, both the pros and the cons survive.

It works when it is journalism. What happens when content is king? What happens when the technology is democratized? Should social media really spread crap?

Put in another way, there is a term called, signal-to-noise ratio. If noise is to crap, and noise is to cons, should we allow the signal to be corrupted by the noise?

In 1969, Frank Herbert wrote a book called Dune Messiah. It was set in a desert world, where the people were poor and resources were scarce. The people of Dune where deeply religious, just like Filipinos are deeply religious. After winning a rebellion the people installed the protagonist in the story, the Duke Paul, as Emperor of a vast galactic empire. He was a superhuman antihero who had the gift of looking into the future.

One of his characters– Hayt— was a ghola– a clone of a dead man, brought back to life with the memories of the original. Hayt was a philosopher-swordsman of the Emperor Paul.

Talking about justice in one of the passages, Hayt said, “What is justice? Two forces collide. Each may have the right in his own sphere. And here’s where an Emperor commands orderly solutions. Those collisions he cannot prevent — he solves. How? In the simplest way: he decides.”

Can you decide?

Social media isn’t about being neutral.

What makes social media so special is that we do take sides. We do away with the sham of bring balanced. We take sides. We don’t stay neutral. We tell you our opinion. We tell you what’s crap and what isn’t.

Unlike mainstream media, social media shouldn’t magnify the noise. You don’t have to retweet everything. You don’t have to share the link to everything. Filter it through the prism of your own compass of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Putting it another way, social media is the art of filtering the noise and amplifying Truth, and Justice.

In a world struggling for reason and rationality, in a time where there is too much information and identifying what is true and what is just becomes difficult, We the People, armed by this democratization of technology must take a stand.

Truth needs a soldier. Justice needs a warrior.



This post was originally published at Cocoy Chronicles.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • baycas

    Pasakalyeng kay ganda…

    Maguindanao Massacre: One Year

    FightForJustice Philippines!

    [November 20-23: Social media campaign – Media and friends will be encouraged to change their profile pictures on Facebook 3 days before the anniversary, replacing it with an icon depicting the fight for justice for the victims.]

    http://www.ifex.org/philippines/2010/11/05/nujp_activities_in_the_philippines.pdf

  • manuelbuencamino

    Two issues here:

    1. Coloma’s ethics

    2. The unbridled power of Facebook to do what it wants with what it wants anytime it wants.

    Coloma is not difficult to fix.

    Facebook is more difficult.

    500,000,000 have drank Zuckerberg’s kool-aid without knowing what it really is that they were drinking. Now the kool-aid is part of their blood stream and they have no antidote if it turns out to be poisonous.

    Zuckerberg has suckered 500,000,000 into sharing their personal date with him. He can even use that date even for blackmail if he chooses.

    A friend of mine said, “I’m going to join Facebook so I can invite and then unfriend everyone who responds.”

    I replied, “You might start an epidemic of unfriendings.”

    He replied, “It’s one way of killing Zuckerberg’s monster and taking control of our lives again.”

    I said, “What happens to social networking?”

    He replied, “Back to blogs where you are in control, not Zuckerberg.”

    I said, “I don’t know enough about social networks or blogs to be able to say whether you are wrong or right.”

  • UP nn grad

    It would be okay with me if social media amplifies this:

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20101117-303762/Ampatuans-use-court-as-massage-parlorsources

    I thought the mainstream-media report above was about “basketball court”, but the deLima processes seem to have weaknesses that insult the Pilipino psyche.

  • UP nn grad

    Another blogger expressed his frustration:
    ————–
    “Liking” the BSAIII Fan page then and the new Official PNoy Fan Page now are two different things. The whole point is about about free choice. With what the Communications Team has done, though they are denying it, is they have robbed the supporters of their free choice.

    With the new Official P-Noy Fan Page now amongst the pages that I “like” they have forced upon me something that I do not. The move was tactless, disrespectful and coming from a government agency, it is a brazen display and abuse of power.

    http://jrocas.com.ph/archives/why-i-unlike-the-official-p-noy-facebook-fan-page/

  • UP nn grad

    Coloma has done it already and he can do it again — take away millions.

  • UP nn grad

    It is probably good that it happened already because it serves as warning. Coloma getting away with asking Facebook to take away millions of “I like” from the Totanes site is forewarning that Coloma knows how to take survey-votes or maybe even funds from some Pinoy-NGO.

  • Felicity

    the Internet will soon be the dominant news source, just as TV took over in the 90s. So this early we have to be responsible about what we do with the Internet. The news’ greatest asset is trust, and when shammy things like this happen, its value goes down. So if we do not start being responsible about the way we use the internet in current affairs and breaking news, we foment an environment of untrustworthy information. Then where will we be?
    Like anything else, new media needs to be used responsibly.
    The hijacking is just abominable.

  • Glenn Atanacio

    Social media has the potential to be the new check and balance, an alternative to newspapers now that traditional media has been corrupted by the payola of pr firms and politicians. It has an inherent ability to keep things real and subject ideas to the acid test of public opinion. Just like newspapers, however, it can also be abused by politicians (as we have seen in the last elections and in the Coloma incident). We must speak up against its corruption (like what FB and Malacanang did to the fans and likes of the PNoy page) because it is the one medium that we can really call our own.