Freedom of speech on social networks and terrorising IS media

A shocking video from the terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) spread throughout the internet this week, showing the horrific execution of an American journalist, James Foley. Social media and their networks were highlighted as being used to distribute these videos and the largest social media sites went to extreme efforts to oust the disturbing images from their servers.

Unfortunately, one particular social network has been targeted by the terrorist organisation to spread their propaganda and fear inspiring media, one which can’t control what is shared and spread by the users.

Diaspora* is a social network that is based off free and open source software (FOSS), run by volunteers and the community. Having no central servers (and is instead hosted on many, user owned and private servers called ‘pods’ across the world), there is no controlling body.

This means the users can use the software however they want, without a corporate body controlling them, meaning all data, text and images uploaded belong solely to the users. This makes it attractive to people who resent corporate and government control, but also to those who want to spread terror media, which is exactly what some reports say IS did.

Dispora* released a statement explaining how the network works, and why they are limited in controlling the content on there. They said: “We will continue our efforts to talk with the [administrators of each individual server] but we want to emphasize once again that the project’s core team is not able to decide what [the admins] should do.”

The freedom of speech which dispora* have wholeheartedly embraced makes them vulnerable to being used for this kind of propaganda.

Open and free speech is argued to be becoming more and more restrained by the corporate entities on the internet, but then without the control of a presiding body, we give opportunity for terrorist organisations to inspire terror by spreading horrific videos.

Debates can rage over whether videos like the ones uploaded by IS should be censored or not. Liberty says we should be able to watch what we want. However, sharing it and viewing it is helping IS achieve their goal of spreading terror to the western world.

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