The horrendous murder of American diplomats in Libya and the continuing protests and criminal actions aimed at America embassies and consulates in Yemen and Egypt provide yet one more opportunity to examine the emerging importance of social media. In just the last year we have seen how pro-democracy movements in the Arab world were aided by the social media like Facebook and Twitter. The instantaneous ability to communicate with people at a global level helped fuel and organize the forces that eventually brought two Arab strongmen to their end. In a previous blog I commented on the significance of social media in the pro-democracy revolution in Egypt.
Unfortunately, like most swords, this one has two edges. The same social media that once aided in the spread of hope is being used to spread hate. An independently produced video on YouTube has thrown gasoline on a flame best left an ember—anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, cultural clashes based on history, religion, and politics. There is enough blame and fault to go around. In the days, indeed, the hours ahead, can the same social media be employed to dampen the flames? The anger is misdirected; the violence is unacceptable; and any politicization of the tragedy is shameful. The power and potential of emerging social media should come with equal measures of freedom and responsibility. Who can make this happen?