Social media and the concept of “freedom”

Most of us have been living the advance and development of online journalism and among all, the social media. This tendency that started with blogs and followed with different social media website has been like a volcano. During a couple of years it was growing and growing and then, it exploded and covered and rooted all the media and information society. Most of the journalist, or people who are working using social media, called themselves “community managers”; universities and other high education institutions are offering specialized course based on these tools, there are conferences worldwide about the impact of new technologies on media, the new roles of journalists…. and of course, every single media has at least a social media account. Even, current events are  being analysed depending on the latter (one of the best examples is the Arab uprising). But, is there a real comprehension of these tools?

Journalists and other media experts are using these tools without a complete understanding of them and mainly by presenting them as “free” tool and a way to guarantee freedom of both, information and speech. However,  these tools are not free as they are no free software. It might not be the main media company the one who is telling what to say and what to post but, nevertheless, there is a private company running that software who do can control the information. For example, some days ago, there was a discussion about some pictures published on a main newspaper social media website which were deleted them because they were violating their privacy statements.

This can be considered just another anecdote but it is showing a deeper problem: the lack of understanding of the digital tools by our journalists, who are supposed not only to help to create an informed and educated public society. I am not asking them to start hacking and making their own software but at least, they should have a better knowledge about the different software accessible and the privacy issues of the software they are using.

Let’s explain it with an example. I am journalist and I have all my information in an android device. But the apps on my device are not free. They belong to a certain company, what means that that company can access my data. So, should I trust it enough in case I have to write an important email with, for example “the new Waterloo case”? Wouldn’t it be better if we can have proprietary social media? Then, we will be able not only to submit information without any kind of ahead and back control but also to be able to adapt the social media to our needs.

The latter will be the only way to achieve a real information freedom in our digital society. To ensure that future uprisings could really rely on social media as a way to express themselves, to allow journalists and freelances to inform without any kind of restriction. But, without forgetting if one want to be considered more than a journalist that post on social media and wants to be called “community manager” should understand our Digital Era, the importance of Free Software and Open Source and that the tools they are using might not be as “free” as they think.