Ever since the Tunisian and Egyptian “revolutions,” there has been a ton of debate on the effect of social networking. As a self-proclaimed social networking strategist, I have a few opinions on the matter myself.
First, I hate the talking heads that say either that social networking is the new savior of democracy (by allowing these groups to get organized) or that it is the new tool for dictatorship (to allow regimes to censor and track activists). The truth is that they do both, or neither, it’s all about how these tools are designed, implemented, and managed. As my favorite answer to student questions in class – the real answer is that “it depends.”
But since WE have the power to design, implement, and manage these tools, we can make sure that the positives outweigh the negatives. It is possible to create wi-fi mesh networks that would resist government censorship and prevent them from shutting down the Internet in the event of a revolution. It’s also possible to create anonymous and untraceable profiles for activists. We can effectively do what Christian Slater kind of did in the movie “Pump up the Volume” (great flick btw) with his pirate radio station.
So it's up to the designers at Facebook, Twitter, etc. to modify their platforms. But if they can pull this off, the power it would give activists would be incredible. But as with any kind of power, it can be used for good or for ill.