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SpirE-Journal 2011 Q1

Side Click: Is there a backlash against Social Media?

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Side Click: Is there a backlash against Social Media?

Is there a backlash against Social Media in Emerging Markets?

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…we have seen and probably used them all. While social media has become commonplace, the freedom it provides for the expression of views and thoughts, and lurking concerns about privacy, may be provoking something of a backlash in some quarters. In the US, the campaign to delist from Facebook claims 32,5221 supporters and privacy concerns have flared up in the European Union as well.

For most detractors, the biggest concern is without a doubt, the issue of privacy. More than half of social network users share private information about themselves online, exposing themselves to a variety of potential online dangers.

9 percent of social network users in the U.S. experienced some form of ill-treatment or ill effect, such as malware infections, scams, identity theft, or harassment. Many social network users are unaware of risks. 40% had posted their full birth date, exposing themselves to identity theft. 26% of Facebook users with children had potentially exposed themselves to predators by posting the children’s identities. And in one in four households with a Facebook account, users were not aware of or did not choose to use the service’s privacy controls.

Asian users are making major inroads into historically Western-centric social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Internet blogs, prompting vital players to sit up and take notice. How are these concerns playing in the Asia-Pacific region?

So far there seem to be few signs of such a backlash in emerging markets – in fact social media seems to be riding high from the “positive” publicity it has gained from the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East, where activists might never have succeeded without those platforms. Social media users in Asia – mainly in Japan, Indonesia and South Korea – account for 37% of all tweets out of 2.9 million messages tracked. While Asia saw positive growth in Twitter volume from March to June in 2010, North America as a whole went downhill.

It is interesting that there has been little outrage in Asia at the privacy issues posed by social media. The reason may have something to do with the empowering effect social media has had in many Asian societies, where traditional respect for seniority and norms of politeness still govern social relations.

Social media like Blogs and Twitter have allowed individuals (sometimes under cover of anonymity) to interact with and express themselves frankly to one another without having to consider social status at all. Many have found this to be profoundly liberating.

The only obstacle to the continued rise of social media in emerging markets is probably government. And as the experience of Myanmar and North Korea has shown, it is virtually impossible for any government to comprehensively block access to social media without paying a heavy price in terms of economic isolation and backwardness.

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