Unleash the Hounds

David Byrd : Byrd's Eye View
David Byrd
Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI

Unleash the Hounds

Odd that in the same week we have very differing aspects of the value of social media and both relate to emergency situations. During the current crisis in Britain, social media is actively used to promote, invite and expand the areas of rioting around London. Texting via SMS and Twitter are used so effectively that the initial reaction of the authorities was to request a shutdown of the RIM’s BlackBerry texting services. With more than 45 million users globally, RIM faced the task of how to shut down the service limiting the geography to Great Britain or all of London. Given that the BlackBerry is the phone of choice in Britain this would have negatively affected millions of users. In addition, stopping the texting would have only caused a brief disruption as other means than SMS would have been utilized.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and both RIM and Twitter are working with the authorities to identify the rioters that were using their services to promote continued destruction and violence. Furthermore, after a bit of hesitation, British authorities are reacting with stronger methods to control the rioters.

The second emergency situation that has embraced the use of social media is Next Generation 911 (NG911). This week the FCC announced an initiative to advance the 911 emergency calling services to include texting, data, photos and video. The objective is to enable younger people to use the means of communication that they find most effective and to improve the content of the information sent to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Given the sometimes graphic nature of the calls we hear replayed as news, I can only imagine what kinds of photos and videos will be sent to the PSAPs. Usage guidelines are to be developed to manage the information. However, many will use the current Freedom of Information Act to attain some of the more gruesome or salacious material. Ultimately, this will be an issue decided in the courts. Because if they gain access to it, we know they will figure out a way to distribute it. The FCC clearly sees this potential problem and includes the requirement to develop a NG911 governance framework as noted in the press release issued by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

It is ironic that as one country examines how to put restrictions on using IP communications during an emergency, another seeks to unleash it.

See you on Monday!

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