The Internet + Genocide: The Good, The Bad, The Questionable

Originally posted at Stop Genocide.

The internet.  One of the best things about it is that anyone with a connection and a computer can use it to spread ideas, learn and connect with other people.  One of the scariest things?  Anyone with a connection and a computer can use it to spread ideas, learn and connect with other people.

Michelle recently highlighted some of the innovative ways that people are harnassing the internet to map conflict to better study and prevent it.  (That’s the good).

On the other end of the spectrum, the “Balloon Boy” national fascination late last week took a particularly odd and nasty turn when it revealed that instead of floating away with his father’s experiment, the boy had instead been hiding in the attic.  Thousands upon thousands of Twitter users repeated a short “joke” turning the other recent national fascination, Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift, into variations on:

“Yo, Balloon Boy. I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Anne Frank had the best hiding place of ALL TIME!”

That one person wrote this — let alone that so many people decided that something like this was worth repeating — is clearly the bad.

And the questionable?  Last week the Polish authority that manages Auschwitz created a Facebook page for the memorial. A spokesman said:

“If our mission is to educate the younger generation to be responsible in the contemporary world, what better tool can we use to reach them than the tools they use themselves?”

And the page itself isn’t necessarily the problem.  The motivations behind it clearly make sense, and the dialogue on the page (which is closely monitored) is mostly respectful memories of visiting the memorial and exhortations to “never forget”.

Perhaps it’s the Facebook terminology that’s most troubling – it’s hard to want to become a “fan” of Auschwitz.  And the general setting of Facebook – with its “what Mad Men character are you?” quizzes and birthday party invites – might not be the most appropriate for such a complicated and weighty topic, as Sinead Gleeson points out in the Irish Times.

What makes me most nervous, though, is that although the page is supposedly closely monitored and the comments to date are civil, the page is open to anyone on Facebook.  And Facebook is open to anyone on the internet.  And the internet is open to anyone with a computer and a connection.  Which isn’t a problem until people stop thinking and start inanely retweeting jokes about Anne Frank.

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About Martha Heinemann Bixby

Advocacy. Politics. Life. Martha Heinemann Bixby.
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