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Monday, July 11, 2005

Text Messages Cause Civil Unrest

The Philippines are already rife with civil unrest. There are repeated kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, and other atrocities created by the Islamic extremists. It's yet another one-time charming and peaceful vacation spot that has been spoiled. Sadly, a U.S. official has described it as "The new Mecca for terrorism". And parts of the island are so lawless, said Charge d'Affaires Joseph Mussomeli, that it runs the risk of becoming another Afghanistan.

Many Filipinos use text messaging to communicate with their loved ones overseas. A text message may cost only 2 cents to send to America, where a standard phone call might cost a great deal more. But text messaging is almost impossible to trace. Messages can be easily forwarded quickly, and can spread like wildfire. If used the wrong way, it can be a curse. If used the right way, it can be a blessing. It's very popular in China, where dissidence is suppressed yet the government cannot easily stop the text messaging.

Recently in the Philippines, text messages designed to incite civil unrest shot rapidly about the island. "President about to flee the country. Hoard groceries before banks collapse. Troops rumbling into Manila." Although none of the messages were true, many terrified Filipinos flooded the banks, preparing for the worst.

Text messaging has increased the unrest among an already nervous population. In 2001, text messaging helped rally the people to oust their current president. Because texting is unsourced, there is no personal responsibility for anything that is said. It is very possible that the terrorists are using it to their advantage since the people are easily alarmed (which is understandable).

Although we enjoy a great freedom with the ability to text message (and even though it is useful in places of suppression such as China) I wonder if anonymity should be revisited. Perhaps the initial author of the message should be attached to the message, so that where ever it is forwarded the source will be known. It might introduce some personal responsibility into the message. After all, isn't it wrong to cry out 'fire!' in the middle of a crowded theatre?

13 comments:

bananarama said...

It is pretty scary to see what these muslim fundamentalists are doing. I think text msgs should start carrying tags, it might help. we can't always worry about freedoms (like for China) when they're injuring people.

Tabasamu said...

I dunno, Saur. I kind of like the idea of keeping text msgs. anonymous. But I think they need to educate their people better. Lack of education has probably got a lot to do with it. Of course, it might take a while to educate them, and a bad text message could destroy everything overnight. Maybe they could take out billboards that say "Don't Trust That Text Message"...

mal said...

anonymity is fine, if used responsibly.
The down side? It is often used irresponsibly. One of the problems with the web is the fact that people can be anonymous and committ behaviours that they would never do if they were in person to take the repercussions.

I am with you. The original author must be identifiable

snicksnack said...

You're not getting many posts on this one, Saur. People are either bored or don't get it...time to post a new one! My opinion: messages should always include the original source.

red spice said...

From another country's perspective (Puerto Rico) I would have to agree with you. I think it would be far better to be able to trace such messages than allow them to cause such mass hysteria

Saur♥Kraut said...

Bananarama, thanks for the feedback!

TC / Tabasamu, but just because they hear a message doesn't mean it will make a difference in their behavior. That's the only reason I couldn't go with that. You'd have to do A LOT of advertising. It takes about 10x for an advertising message to take effect.

Mallory, Welcome to the blog and thanks for the input! I checked out your blog and like it, and left feedback.

Snicksnack, yeah, it hasn't been the most popular of my blogs! But everything is pretty subdued in Blogland right now, I don't know why. Monday blahs?

Red Spice, hadn't heard from you in a while. Nice to 'see' you again!

Tabasamu said...

I saw the post in the African blog, and I'm really p.o'd. I think you should delete his comments entirely, Saur.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

I don't know what to think on this one. It's a gray area. I worry that people can't have the privacy to "speak" without reprisal.

What do the citizens of the Philippines think? That should carry the day.

AP3 said...

Yeah, that's a tough call. Very interesting topic.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Tan Lucy & Aral, thanks for the input. I actually think it would be very hard to do anything to stop text messaging, because it's a way of life there. All you can do is try to encourage responsibility (somehow?)

actonbell said...

Wow, I didn't even know about this issue--and it's pretty alarming! Will have to read more about it..

mal said...

I have been stewing on the anonymity thing since I first read the post. The best I can come up with is if we do not have the courage to fight for what we believe and say then we do not have the right to say it. 1776 a number of men stood up, walked forward and signed their names to a treasonous document. Would that document have had any value if it was signed "anonymous"? I think not. Anonymity is for those who do not have the courage of their convictions.

If they do not believe in the message strongly enough to sign, why I should I take it seriously?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mallory,

An excellent point! Thank you so much. You have helped to clarify the argument.