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Social media's effect on politics
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Posted by Michael Geist

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star, homepage version), focuses on the role of Facebook in encouraging the government to delay the introduction of new copyright legislation. Facebook has garnered considerable attention regarding its user privacy policies, online marketing strategies, and the short-sighted decision of some companies and governments to block employee access to the site. While these issues have shone the spotlight on some of the challenges of social media, the lasting lesson of Facebook may come from the copyright issues of the past two weeks as they demonstrate that Facebook is far more than just a cool way to catch up with old friends; rather, it is an incredibly effective and efficient tool that can be used to educate and galvanize grassroots advocacy, placing unprecedented power into the hands of individuals. In this instance, Canadians increasingly recognized the detrimental effect of the proposed copyright reforms on consumer rights, privacy, and free speech, and were moved to act. I acknowledge that this scenario cannot be repeated for every issue. Yet for similarly placed concerns, the lesson of the past two weeks is that politicians, companies, and other organizations can ill-afford to ignore a medium that is capable of mobilizing tens of thousands within a matter of days. Those caught flatfooted may ultimately find themselves struggling to save face.

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