Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Home Office finds out the truth about 'Social Media'

The government and police have not sought any new powers to shut social networks, the Home Office said after a meeting with industry representatives, Reports the BBC.


While one may respect the Home Secretary for her political acumen and position in government, her knowledge of the internet, including mobile internet and social media may need some help.

That Facebook, Twitter or RIM can have some material effect on communication affecting a riot is undoubted (these are platforms and channels for communication). That they are  capable of activities that will change behaviours is very doubtful. That she can upset the economy with her tinkering is probable.

In the USA and Europe, and to a lesser extent across the world, £millions has been spent on using the internet to change behaviours by companies such as Wallmart, Exon, Toyota, General Electric and Allianz, the biggest in the world. They have all tried and all failed. They are not the only organisations who have a problem with getting online users to do things.  Google proudly released Wave and dropped it. TouchPad failed because it had few of the apps that made Apple’s iPad a runaway hit. Just 48 days after Microsoft began selling the Kin, a smartphone for the younger set, the company discontinued it because of disappointing sales.

The people in the thick of it are not so good either and the Home Secretary has realised that.

Meantime, economic research tells us:

  • The Internet economy now represents 7.2 percent of U.K. GDP, more than construction, transport, or utilities.
  • The United Kingdom ranks first in e-commerce and exports £2.8 in e-commerce goods and services for every £1 imported
  • There are 250,000 U.K. jobs in Internet companies
  • Small and medium businesses that are high-Web users experience higher growth and more international sales than those that do not use the Internet
  • A recent additional study tells us that sales via the internet are, by themselves, of the order of £62 billion ($103bn)
The Home Secretary also had to consider how many social network outlets there are? The ranges of protocols being used that can be brought into play to avoid censorship (FTP, WWW, Email,etc etc)? The range of platforms in use (PC, Mobile phones, gaming machines etc)?

Her knee jerk reaction to the Prime Minster's elastoplast rhetoric was potentially very damaging and would solve nothing.

It is ironic that a British Home Secretary should attempt shackle the Web, invented by a British scientist  20 years almost to the day from its launch.