Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Social Technology Abuse

In the wake of Japan's horrific tsunami, the whole world cried. This earthquake, cited as the worst earthquake in the history of Japan has also resulted in the biggest nuclear calamity since Cherynobyl, with the death toll from the ensuing tsunami still unknown. Scientists are even claiming that due to the quake, we are losing 1.8 microseconds a day. Therefore, when the tsunami hit (only three minutes after the quake), the world was outraged. Even an  industrialized nation, could still be crippled by the forces of nature.

Accompanying this disaster however, was an increase in the use of social technology to disseminate information. As news spread about Japan, Facebook tabulated there were approximately 4.5 million status updates from 3.8 users, and mapped that data.  Sites popped up to helped people find their loved ones. And news can be read on a minute by minute basis. Typing in the words "earthquake japan" in google even results in a list of recent earthquakes and aftershocks which rocked Japan.

Therefore, as technology brings us closer together in a time of such pain, the perversion of scams and the heartless pranks of others is unacceptable. The BBC is currently covering a story about false text messages circulating through Asian countries that warn that the impacts of radiation are creeping towards them.This article states that the primary motivation for sending these text messages are often "intended to fool users into downloading malware or simply to spread panic." This has caused such widespread fear in the Philippines that schools closed and workers were sent home. Public fear was so widespread that the government had to step in, in the hopes of calming the people (he effects of radiation are currently only affecting those near the nuclear sites in Japan).

Following a tragic accident, I feel enraged that others are trying to piggyback on this accident for their own gain. It reminds me of the the people who, during the San Bruno Fire, attempted to loot or steal services from the victims. I am struck by the heartlessness of individuals, but even more mortified by the use of social technology to manipulate individuals and spread panic. This truly demonstrates the malleability of social technology and the fact that it can amplify the decisions or thoughts of one person, as in the case of the racist comments of a UCLA student. 

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