Internet policeThis week I received two emails – I get many in a day, but these two stand out because they reflect the phenomenal power of the internet and the connective economy; one in a positive way, and the other in a very dangerous way.
The first one was the ICE message – for those that have not received it – ICE – In Case of Emergency – is a “name� that it is suggested you load onto you mobile phone with a number of next-of-kin and should anything happen (bombs, accidents the like – very topical in the UK as you can imagine) the rescue teams will be able to contact next of kin quickly and easily. The other was an email of an email/letter that was supposedly written by Moeletsi Mbeki to Bob Geldof about the ills of Africa and the corruptness of the African Governments (and the wasted effort of Live 8). I am not going to go into the debate of whether the original author was correct in his (or her) argument or not as this is not the appropriate forum, however what distressed me was two fold. Having just read an article by Moeletsi Mbeki in the Sunday Times magazine, I am pretty confident that the author of the email was not Mr Mbeki. Sending inflammatory comments such as those held in that email perpetuate the negative perception that the world has of a continent that is actually moving forward despite all the odds against it. It also finds itself sent all over the world when the opening lines are “letter by Moeletsi Mbeki brother of Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, to Bob Geldof re Live 8�

Well written and/or emotive emails can find themselves scattered around the world in a matter of days. Some are good and spread a smile around the world, others more irritating, some can be valuable (like the traffic warnings of accidents on the M4) or they can be very destructive. Guy Lundy’s email asking the South Africans to recognize the greatness of South Africa was driven by a need to address the negative impact on future investments that Saffas were having across the globe bad mouthing South Africa. Africa now needs the world to stop seeing it as the basket case of the world and recognize the leaps and bounds that are being made across the continent DESPITE the odds – bad governance, Aids, lack of infrastructure etc. and emails like that will drown out the good stuff. Africa needs trade not Aid and it wont get it as long as emails like those do the rounds (okay I had to have something to say about the politcs).
Another example of how mass media is influencing the minds of people is the current fear that is gripping London and the UK. If the media would realize the role that they are playing in fuelling this “us and them� mentality that has no one trusting each other, they could turn this into something positive by encouraging people to learn about each other and the different cultures so that we could become a more tolerant society rather than less so, as this lack of understanding is what has caused this mess in the first place.
As we move into a smaller and smaller world the personal integrity of individuals in our societies has to become greater and cultural understandings (and empathy) more important if we are to live side by side in a global village. In the past media was controlled and censored in the interests of the society – for better or worse. Unless you live in China (or Zimbabwe apparently) the internet is an open and uncensored forum so it up to us as individuals to police ourselves and consider the impact of what it is we put out there. Do we have the maturity to do that, and if we don’t, can we handle the consequences?

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