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Safety online
2012-03-31: I gave a training session on Thursday, most of the delegates were women and when I mentioned opening a Facebook Page to promote an event (instead of creating a false person profile) lots of questions arose about whether someone could see the originator of the Page. (The answer, as far as I know, is 'no').
After a while, I sort of asked "why does it matter?", since the event was perfectly legitimate, why would it matter if you, the organiser, was seen to be connected to it?
Prior to that, though, the person I was talking to told the tale of how someone had created a fake profile of her daughter on Facebook and said some very nasty things about her, posing as her. They'd complained every day to Facebook and it was clear that whatever remedy the company had provided, it wasn't enough.
My partner has been talking about trolls, people who go online just to wind people up. Perhaps the online equivalent of the dirty phone call, if you say "yeah, whatever" that's the last you hear, if you keel over in shock they'll be back for more. The maxim "don't feed the trolls" seemed to hit hard. Their pathology tends to make things get serious if you fight back. That is, after all, what they are looking for.
I'd formed the idea that privacy is over-rated. It's all over, basically. The Internet never deletes anything. Wikileaks is out there as an idea. So whatever you did online, wherever you go in cyberspace, whether now or in 50 years, it's going to be available.
But, I may be changing my mind, and it's planet-size important because it's about building an equal world online. I'm a six foot six inch nice, normal looking hetero bloke living in the country of my roots with few enemies and plenty of people who would help me in a crisis. I like smiling at people, I reach groceries from the top shelf for fellow shoppers and I try my hardest to listen. So yes, having a fairly open Facebook profile just adds to my 'success', such as it is.
But it doesn't take much to slip off the mound onto the grey asphalt of the playground. Even having ginger hair puts you on a road to hiding under the shed while your schoolfriends kick soil under and call you a cunt. It very much shouldn't. I'd love ginger haired people to join a ginger haired union that employs a PR company to push the very many positives, that's why I started this Pinterest board. If ginger hair's enough, what chance lesbian muslims.
Are you ready for a shock? Take a look at this article about the iPhone app, Girls Around You which does pretty much what it says .. it tells you which 'girls' (that's "women" to people who don't think with their cock, bit of a giveaway) are near you at any one time, and lifts everything public from their Facebook profile. So you know that Jemima who you half know from the bookshop is in the next pub, and also (because you can see her holiday pics) what she looks like in a bikini. If you fancy your chances with her, off you go, your stupid face shining with the bluey light from your ovine-marketed retina screen.
I have 'friends' on my Facebook who regret not striking up a conversation with the beautiful woman on the train, who believe the way to pull is to accept any woman from the night.
On Twitter, I have a lot of feminist connections. Boy do they love living life like a video game, trying to fend off chancers at every inappropriate turn. Unable to dance freely or dress to express.
So it turns out social media is a way that the same old can happen all over again. The mass, the 'leaders', the centre, the majority .. white, male, hetero, not-ginger .. can use their power to make life hard for the outliers.
The web I know was built from the very beginning to be an open, free, equal, accessible way of sharing information and ideas. That's the web I want. That's the web I'm working for. I'm not interested in white male hetero anything. I'm bored with all that. Nature tells us that monocultural populations can't cope with change yet we only seem to do one thing at the moment .. put white, males in charge of turning everything from libraries and schools to routes over the land, health and music into a business. I'm interested in the female, the black, the muslim, the differently able, the asylum seeker, the young, the gay, the uncool, the unprofitable.
In "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace" Adam Curtis concludes that the machines are fine, it's us that's the problem. We are the machines. Our DNA is our software. And yes, we want to promote our DNA by having children, fine, we're all OK with that. But it's worse. More than that, we want to promote DNA that's 'like' ours. If we are white, we want to promote white. Here's the root of war, prejudice and abuse. We want more people like us, and fewer like *you*. No dogs, no blacks, no Irish. No women in the boardroom. It's deep in our genes.
Fuck that. I'm committed to not that.
There's enormous joy in diversity, it's the difference between a cookie cutter town where your choice is between Primark and Boots the Chemist, and a town of beautiful independent shops during an arts festival.
It starts with you and me and our decisions day to day. It starts with noticing what's going on. Remember the social media meme of wanting to punch people in the back of the head? Slow walkers were one group targeted. Notice our political leaders demonising the disabled as workshy?
Be especially nice, helpful, respectful to people who aren't like you. Now. This hour. Today. All week. Every week. Always and forever.
The web, and the world, is everyones.
Only diversity can make us strong.

By John Allsopp
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