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From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, social media and the latest mobile technologies have been lauded as the tools of 21st century revolution.
Revolutionaries no longer identify each other by tricolor cockades, but as members of Facebook and Twitter. These websites not only help ignite revolution, but also enable knowledge-sharing, social gatherings, and friendships. The diverse ways in which we interact online have created the world of social media, but have also spawned a “shadowy world” where human interaction bisects national security, privacy breaches, and constitutional freedoms.
On Tuesday, June 12, Zachary Karabell, president of River Twice Research and The Daily Beast contributor, sat down at the CORE Club with Andrew McLaughlin, vice president of Tumblr and former US deputy chief technology officer.
McLaughlin commented that while maintaining privacy online is difficult, US intelligence agencies are compelled to act within the law regarding the surveillance of citizens. The Tumbler executive identified the CISPA bill, a piece of legislation that would require companies to share information affecting national security, as one potential danger to the status quo.
Even in the open information age, privacy remains a concept that is deeply ingrained in American life, McLaughlin said.
“The material details of your life are your own, much life your home,” said McLaughlin.
Our lives exist in parallel with our online ones. What one person posts online can instantly become part of the life of another. As much as the internet can threaten privacy, everything that is good about social media depends on the open nature of the internet.
McLaughlin praised the current administration for its defense of internet transparency as not only a First Amendment right, but a human rights issue. He remembered the SOPA and PIPA bills as close calls that would have implemented internet censorship in the US, something we criticize the Chinese, Syrians, and Iranians for.
As for the revolutionary nature of social media and mobile communications tools, Zachary Karabell affirmed their importance, but was skeptical as to whether or not their impact is inflated.
"People have always cooked and they have always revolted. The way in which they have cooked and the way they have revolted has shifted, but those actions in and of themselves have remained remarkably constant,” said Karabell.
The internet and social media “are just one of many technologies that have been invented in the past century that have sped up change,” McLaughlin said.
— By Lauren Glass
President, River Twice Research
Contributing Editor, Newsweek/The Daily Beast
Board member, New America Foundation
Vice President, Tumblr
Former Chief Technology Officer of the United States