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Chris Pinto Computers and Society Essay 1

Power Exercised Through Computer-Mediated Social Interactions Via the Interwebs

In this essay, I will be discussing the role of power exercised over the Internet through computer-mediated social interactions. The particular topic I will be focusing on and analyzing is the recent instance of an anti-Islamic short video clip being uploaded to the worldwide website known as You-Tube. We will see just how the uploading of a single short clip can bring about exercising extreme amounts of power in social interactions and institutions around the world. I will be analyzing the roles of different computer-mediated social interactions relating to the video in question, as well as the repercussions of these roles. This video being uploaded to the Internet, has led to a world-changing event, which many different kinds of power was used and displayed among the different social institutions that were a part of the computer interaction. It is important to see and analyze how the event has affected these different computer-mediated social interactions, so we can understand what effects computers have on power and society as a whole. This certainly wasnt the first event to take place in our technology filled world that has shown extreme power over people, and definitely will not be the last. There are three kinds of power that exist in todays world; they are normative, coercive and economic (Technology and Social Control: The Search for the

Illusive Silver Bullet). In this particular situation there are also several institutions in play. One is Google/YouTube, which is acting as the gatekeeper of the video in this case, since they are holding on to it and possess it and give other people access to it, or not (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/01/google-as-gatekeeper-nopersonal-attacks-in-campaign-ads/). There is also the notion of social control in this particular situation. One group of people that was affected by the video decided to act out in a way that would be considered an act of coercive social control. Once the video was uploaded to YouTube, people all over the world then viewed it. Since the video was somewhat offensively attacking the Islamic prophet Muhammad in some peoples opinion, it caused a group of extreme religious protestors to act out in an extremely violent way against the other group in this situation, which were the Americans who were viewed in this context as the group who uploaded the video. It was a very extreme act of coercive social control (Technology and Social Control: The Search for the Illusive Silver Bullet), which is a use of power by the Islamic group who took offense to the video. Now, of course not all Americans uploaded the video, and the gatekeeper Google/YouTube was not responsible for uploading the video, but several protestors blamed the gatekeeper for allowing the video to be posted it in the first place. However, according to the gatekeeper, it did not violate their terms of services and would not remove the video from being viewed. After the incident of the Islamic protestor group murdering members of the US Embassy in Lybia however, Google, decided it would be best to censor it from being viewed in Egypt and Lybia to prevent other acts of social control from occurring due to the video

being viewable (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/9540098/YouTube-refuses-toremove-anti-Islamic-film-clip.html). This can be looked at as an example of how the Islamic protestor group used its coercive social power over the other groups to censor the video from being viewed in its own countries. It is important to remember, all of these social interactions, except for the physical act of violence, occurred through the aid of the computer. The uploading of the video, viewing the video, and censoring the video all determined what power was established, and also what social groups were composed (http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/perrolle/book/chapter1.html - 1.2.2.1). It is very interesting to see exactly how the Internet influenced all of this social interaction to occur. Another aspect to keep in mind is that the Islamic protestor group partook in an illegal act of coercive power that is known as non-legitimate power (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Types_of_Legitimate_Rule_%28book%29 ). This is because they used illegal physical violence to exert power in their reaction to the video. This single upload of a YouTube video, caused all kinds of political changes around the world and shifts of power through computer-mediated social interactions. Google also expressed that YouTube values the free speech of its users and does not want or intend to ever infringe upon this. To quote what Googles statement said, We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and

which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This videowhich is widely available on the webis clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries( https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/09/youtube-blocks-access-controversialvideo-egypt-and-libya). When you put this along side the article that we read in class called Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing, it gives us an interesting perspective. Here is a quote from the article that I felt closely related to what Googles statement was saying, Access to information through a vibrant media system has long been recognized as an essential element in well-functioning democracies. Free access to information and a free press serve as a check on government, aid in transparency, reduce corruption, allow for debate and criticism of government decisions, and provide citizens with an input into political processes between elections. Ideally, broad access to information fosters public debate of issues of political salience, and allows all sides in those debates to be heard (Bruce Etling, Robert Faris and John Palfrey, 3). However, later in the article, it makes mention how in certain government contexts, there is much pressure to not allow the amount of free speech that Google is providing for its users. China is a great example of this, because they have blocked all access in their country to Google, fearing that information its nation can find through it would be damaging to the government currently in place and lead to protests such as exhibited with the antiIslamic video we are analyzing in this paper.

Overall, power seems to be expressed in various ways depending on the situation through computer-mediated social interactions. As seen by this event with the YouTube video, even one event can carry many different powers over the computer social interactions. It seems difficult to predict precisely the kind of power that will result from an occurrence, but it is definitely apparent after analyzing this situation, that there will definitely be at least one kind of power exerted upon the social interactions via the computer, or in person. References http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/01/google-as-gatekeeper-no-personalattacks-in-campaign-ads/ http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/perrolle/book/chapter1.html - 1.2.2.1 https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/09/youtube-blocks-access-controversialvideo-egypt-and-libya http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Types_of_Legitimate_Rule_%28book%29 Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing. Bruce Etling, Robert Faris and John Palfrey. Technology and Social Control: The Search for the Illusive Silver Bullet. Gary T. Marx. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/9540098/YouTube-refuses-toremove-anti-Islamic-film-clip.html

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