You Are NOT Invited – or – The Responsibility Of Social Media

So, are we actually ready to handle social media? I mean, this weekend the country of the Netherlands has experienced the so-manieth version of if we actually control this thing. In the town of Haren, a small township in the northern part of the country called Groningen, a girl posted the invitation of her birthday party on her Facebook page. Accidentally, she forgot to check off the fact it was a private invitation, so, not visible to any others. Alas, by forgetting this, her invitation went viral online, and over 16,000 people responded to the invitation.

The girl and her parents decided to flee the town, the police was ready, and the town itself made multiple requests in the media not to come to the town. But this online ‘mob’ had their own mind, dubbed the ‘party’ ‘Project-X-Haren’, named after the movie where a sort-like thing happened, and riots broke out.

Nice, heh?

In these moments, it is difficult to decide how to deal with it, just like with the riots in London earlier this year, that also spread across the country of Great Britain, mostly by use of Twitter.

It is actually a good, and a bad thing, and it is difficult to form an opinion with a proper foundation. The problem is, who carries responsibility?

By law, the responsibility of any illegal act, or cause of damage, is by the person or entity that actually causes this damage. But in case with a mob, it is almost impossible to pinpoint, and you cannot prosecute the whole mob (even though, in the Dark Knight, it shows us differently – Ah, wish Batman was there to solve it).

So, then there are the others; is the girl responsible for forgetting to check the ‘private’ invitation, or is it Facebook for making it apparently not default a private invitation that you can make public?

Facebook immediately claims their innocence. Which, of course, is a logical standpoint, but not really a favorable one. They built the possibility to make it private, so, in their point of view, they did their job.

And, in my opinion, you cannot blame the girl. As a rule in usability; if it is so easy to make a mistake with an interactive system, the mistake cannot be credited to the user, but to the owner of the system.

So, if I am correct, no one is to blame from a logical point of view. How can that be?

Let’s check the response of one of the schools; they mention that if they recognize students of their school on the video tapes, they will urge them to go to the police and confess; but they will not rat out who did it.

Of all the opinions and actions, I think that that is the least honorable one. A school is not a place to cover tracks, it is to prepare students for the real life. And if you do something stupid, you are responsible for your own actions. A school, which is a government institute anyway, cannot protect their students in that way. At least, that is my opinion.

So, in other words, as it would seem right now, the ones who will take the responsibility are the tax-payers. No-one will really be taken to justice. The girl is not responsible, period. Facebook could at least take some of the blame in usability. They are not to be charged with anything, but they should make some changes not to make everything public that you do.

And then there is the school that should not only identify their students (although many of the people involved with the riots were not of the town of Haren) but also deliver the information to the police. Does that mean that the school is a ‘rat’?

Well… sure… but who cares? If you are so stupid to be involved in these riots simply because of a birthday party invitation, and you damage other people’s property, yes, you should be held responsible.

It is like that with life; you do something, you carry the consequences.

But, social media does make it so very easy to make such mistakes these days.

Social media can be very powerful, in so many good ways… but if not treated carefully, a lot of problems will occur.

The total damage of the riots in Haren were over a million Euros, about a $1,4m. It might not be that much – on a larger scale – still, in a time of economic crisis, the tax payer should not be responsible if the real culprits can be identified, no matter how big a rat the school would become, or any other institute that helps identifying.

Now, that said, it is an opinion balancing on the edge of a knife. Because, change this setting not to a misplaced birthday party invitation, but to a country in dictatorial oppression, where social media is used to set up riots to fight for freedom? Then, of course you would chose that the school is acting correctly.

But this instance was not a political statement. It was a birthday-party, and over two weeks prior, when the mistake was discovered, the girl, the family and the town already told everyone there was no birthday party, and no one should respond to the invitation.

Still they did.


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