Social Media and Rights to Association and Assembly

Is social media online actually one of the best ways to work towards weakening the right to association and/or assembly? Okay, okay, stop laughing, seriously.  It seems like maybe it can be.

I will call this right the right to association for short terms, but association and assembly are both involved in my concept.

Social media can certainly have its good aspects, not saying it is inherently evil, but something to consider.

So how would this work? First off, social media makes it so people can “associate” without ever actually getting together, it fundamentally seems to break up the usual concept of “coming together” or “associating.”  Which some people would say is wonderful: a person on one side of the world can virtually support another person they have never met on the opposite side, that certainly has some positive things to it, or so it seems.  But, there is still a fundamental importance to show up, to physically exist and represent yourself in situations.  There are limitations on how far online social media can go.  Limitations on how effective it is for getting people up and moving, reference that Kony 2012 video.  I cannot speak for everywhere but I do know that in my university this video hit like a storm and everyone watched it and the days immediately following everyone was planning on going out whatever night it was and painting the entire city in Kony 2012 stuff.  That day came around, nothing.  Absolutely nothing that I could find anyway. There are limitations to what some electric signals can and will do, supposedly the pen is mightier than the sword, but the sword cuts much deeper and faster.

So that is a short description on how “associating” becomes easier with social media but it thus weakens it.  This weakening can then continue in other ways.

A short reason for weakening the right to association is that social media relies a a very weak link: the internet mostly.  All it takes is a lack of electricity/signal and suddenly social media is gone. The instantaneous, constant connection is lost right then and there.  Those more secret or organic coming together to associate suddenly becomes much slower if not also harder.  Also, this means that those people across the globe will not as easily get information and thus will not be able to “like” or “share” your post to support you and associate with you.

The next few reasons: 1) social media and the internet can be controlled and what you see or read can be limited in various ways, even if the internet is currently un-legislated.  This lack of legislation can also lead to issues in that, 2) situations can arise where some forms of association are found out in some way and then stopped before they begin. There are even more problems that come to mind!

One last sprint of reasons: 3) people not physically showing up for something makes it infinitely easier to ignore the problems that are being discussed, 4) social media allows for incredibly stupid issues to come up as talking points and 5) if physical people are not going to go out to support a protest of some sort to protect rights to association more and more laws can be made to make it harder and harder to properly, physically associate.

1) Control of what is seen or read and limitations I think is fairly easy to understand so I will not go into it.

2) Hacking.

3) Again, the pen may be mightier than the sword, but a sharp tack on a seat makes a person stand up much faster.  Just saying, actual physical things are much more likely to get a reaction it seems.

4) that petition to deport Justin Bieber in the news.  I assume anyone who reads this knows why I consider this stupid.  It is also a waste of time and resources thus weakening responses and information on actual, important things.  Yes it is a right, but if a right is watered-down too much I think legal arguments could be made to weaken them and people will not necessarily fight against them since they are too busy worrying about the aforementioned petition.

5) This one is probably most important.  Along with rights to association, in my mind, comes civil disobedience.  These are two things that can work together to promote positive changes in a country that claims to be democratic.  Rights to association, in some ways require space.  Some forms of association require space in certain places, such as certain buildings.  Other forms though require the ability to associate outside of a certain place, specifically in a “public” space.  These are the more politically inclined groups that need or want to protest and publicly show support or disagreement for something politically or in a social context.

Say some group is organizing to show their disagreement with some random law in an unnamed government.  This group will need people to show up to get their demonstration to mean anything.  If everyone is just on social media though and supports the page in some virtual way yet no one actually is moved to show up the protest itself will just fall flat.  Again, people like to claim the pen is mightier, but a huge crowd of people is much more effective at creating action than any piece of paper.  Then, if less people are showing up to events such as this and just supporting programs through the internet, more laws can be made which make it harder for groups to come together and be heard.  These groups have to apply to be able to get together in a public place and then the law designates where they can get together, for how long and where to go, which has its own problems as has already happened.

Social media, as a force that makes it so that individuals can support things without actually physically showing up to show their support or performing actual actions in support of a cause or group can thus let laws strengthen and define association in more and more specific ways.  Which then can lead to a certain form of weakening this right to association.

Next I take issue with online shopping for similar reasons.

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