Social media opens the doors for many to be empowered to share news and views with others. Where once these conversations would have taken place over the dinner table or at the water cooler, now the influence of each individual becomes magnified as more people are able to consume their content. A delicate balance must be achieved, however, to ensure that this actual empowerment does not become a feeling of entitlement.
We all must remember that there’s a huge difference between what is and what ought to be. Simply because we have this newfound sense of power through information distribution does not mean that we have an absolute right to do anything we want. For instance, much has been said about attempts by the NCAA to restrict live blogging of collegiate sporting events. Josh Catone of ReadWriteWeb laments the “War Against Live Blogging” and complains, “how much unnecessary pain will bloggers have to endure because of institutions that just don’t get it?” He quotes the lawyer for a blogger ejected from the press box of a game for live blogging: “Once a player hits a home run, that’s a fact. It’s on TV. Everybody sees it. [The NCAA] can’t copyright that fact. The blog wasn’t a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis.”
And they’re both precisely wrong. Bloggers are not forced to “endure” anything because institutions “don’t get it.” The NCAA puts on events for which people needed passes or tickets to attend. As part of that process, the sponsor of an event has every right to determine how that content is used. The terms of the ticket or pass clearly give that right to the event organizers. Should these sporting or other events permit live blogging? Perhaps, but nobody has a right to live blog. (As I have noted before, I have live blogged events myself and have not ever been asked to stop; were I asked, I would do so immediately because it is not up to me to decide the policy.)
A similar sense of entitlement seems to be coming over many when it comes to the topic of who owns data online. Specifically, the battle lines this week have been drawn between Robert Scoble and Facebook. For his part, Scoble admits to running a screen-scraping script prohibited by Facebook’s Terms of Service. The social networking company shut off his account as a result of this activity. Again, we can debate the merits of the decision, which many have, but some go so far as to say it isn’t Facebook’s information to control.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher, for whom I have much respect and appreciation, gets it precisely wrong when she writes:
THE INFORMATION ON FACEBOOK IS THEIRS AND NOT FACEBOOK’S.
Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to be as clear as I could: All that information on Facebook is Robert Scoble’s. So, he should-even if he agreed to give away his rights to move it to use the service in the first place (he had no other choice if he wanted to join)-be allowed to move it wherever he wants.
And that’s really the point, isn’t it? We all have choices. All of the individuals I have mentioned here are smart, thoughtful people entitled to their own opinions. In the case of both examples I have cited, I’m not trying to say that Facebook or the NCAA shouldn’t reconsider their policies. But ultimately, we all must be careful not to take our social media empowerment and attempt to convert it into a social media entitlement.