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Should social networks be monitored to discourage racism?

SOCIAL NETWORK PORWERHOUSE: Mark Zuckerberg is the co-owner of Facebook

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...

Rosa Doherty

MY TWITTER? My Facebook? Really? Social networking addicts get concerned every time someone suggests the police should be monitoring all our networks.

Firstly, let me tell you I am no criminal, and I’m no racist. The police would want nothing from my whimsical, whiney, self-promoting updates on either network.

Even my family are not all that interested, and I am no different from most people.
Facebook and Twitter are brilliant inventions of the modern world designed to help you relive all the embarrassing nights out, and photos you wish didn’t exist (never click left)!

The idea that nothing we do is private anymore worries me. It’s bad enough that people I know sometimes have access to information that probably shouldn’t exist online. Do we really not trust the majority of society to the point that we want the police to have round the clock access to our Facebook pages and Twitter? Should we give up our right to privacy because a select few misuse what we enjoy every day?

As I write, I copy and paste the same question to my Twitter: ‘Do we really not trust the majority of society so much we have to have round the clock access to our Facebook pages and Twitter?’

This is a small example of the kind of mundane pieces of information the police would have to filter if we are all being monitored. I won’t deny I would rather them have access to it if it meant them stopping the next mass terror attack or racist outburst, of course. However, I would hope they were a few steps ahead in the fight against serious crime before they had to casually weed through Facebook and Twitter pictures of my dinner plate that Sunday!

I’d like to think we live in a society where we would stand up against any racist, bullying, criminal behaviour online if we see it. In which case, the police need not have free rein over our personal information in the ‘hope’ of finding something.

In the past, negative online behaviour has been brought to the police’s attention because of the mass objection from human beings like you and me – evidence enough that they don’t have to go snooping around to find it.


Emily Jane Brown

I REMEMBER my 16-year-old self signing up to Faceparty and Myspace, pretending I was 18 so I could get an account. Well, it wasn’t difficult, I just had to tick a little box or enter a slightly different digit.

I also remember all the insults that were batted around at school by my classmates, whether it was because someone had a different hairstyle or a quirky pair of trainers, or even if they just didn’t ‘fit the mould’. And I remember my teachers trying to police the bullies and make sure that no one was ever upset, or even worse discriminated against.

What if there was a place where this kind of bullying could take place but no one had a say in regards to what was right or wrong? And even worse, there was no age limit to bullying. A completely open playground. Oh, I remember, this does exist – it’s called the Internet.

Last week, John Halligan spoke at a US high school and told the story of his 13-year-old son, Ryan. The teenager committed suicide in 2003, after a vicious rumour circulated on social networking sites that he was gay. He was a victim of cyber bullying.

His father said that cyber bullying is at an epidemic level, and that in the hands of school kids the Internet is dangerous. Not only was Ryan taunted by his school peers but he also learnt how to kill himself online.

Social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and also the relatively new survey site, which allows users to post anonymous questions on another’s profile, can have catastrophic consequences on the well-being of children if they are used incorrectly.

For parents like John Halligan, there is no question whether social networks should be policed, and I couldn’t agree more. If we lived in a crime free society we wouldn’t need the police, but cyber bullying is a prominent issue and we should do everything we can to protect Internet users.

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