retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Published reports this morning say that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is considering a ban on the use of social networking technologies and messaging services as the government there tries to quell violent unrest and rioting that have been taking place there.

"Free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill," Cameron has said. "When people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

Which was ironic because it wasn’t that long ago that dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were being criticized for the same thing, as they looked to stop freedom-seeking citizens from using things like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with each other.

Not to draw any sort of moral equivalency between the English and Egyptian governments, nor to make any sort of political statement, but this would seem to be an approach that will only inflame protestors, because it ignores the fact that these technologies are almost as important to the people using them as their arms and legs.

It is a tough reality, but an inescapable one.

Now, Cameron has not made a final decision about whether to try to block such communications, and from all reports the UK government is still trying to figure out what is feasible. And this morning, the rioting seems to have subsided, at least for the time being. And so it may not happen.

But it is a business lesson as well as a political one. These technologies cannot be denied, no matter how much you try. Engagement with them is the only option.

It is a tough reality, but an inescapable one. It is life.

And, as Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) says in Jurassic Park, “If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously ... Life finds a way.”

Which is something about which we should always keep our eyes open.
KC's View: