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Over the last week you would have to have lived on Mars not to be aware of the level of outrage on Facebook directed towards Sean Sherlock TD and the “statutory implement”, that he is trying to pass into law here in Ireland. This implement has seen two “judgments” called the Scarlet and Charleton attached to it in Irish courts. The result is the Minister has no choice but to ratify the law which was passed into European law by the mandarins in the EU. This directive is about copy write on the net and is seen as the equivalent to the American debate called SOPA. Which stands for Stop Online Piracy Act.

The result, OUTRAGE and CONFUSION, take one look at the posts on the Ministers Facebook page. You will see post after post containing people’s frustration, pouring out in a stream of protest and abuse, even threats of violence. While I feel the abuse and threats are excessive and have no place in reasoned debate, the Minister is largely at fault for the building levels of frustration. He has chosen not to engage with the people posting on his page, this is a complete no no on social media. You treat people with courtesy, if they take the time to post on your site you respond. 45,000 people have signed up to the Irish stop SOPA campaign last week on the back of this.

Why is social media a different medium? Say you read a news paper and disagree with an interview, what are your options? Write a letter to the editor, to long winded. If you hear an interview on T.V. or Radio and would like to comment. You can text but will it get read out, unlikely. Post on a social platform and access means instant publication. People can vent their frustration, give their opinion or advice. If you ignore the interaction taking place, well you get devoured. Just like the the Minister last week. He is now fatally damaged on social media, the online community will not forget this weeks insult.

Why, he has chosen to ignore most of the posts and is only coming on to his page to issue statements. By taking this action he has shown a complete lack of understanding of how Social Media platforms work, plus the lack of an online strategy compounded the problem. To make matters worse the Government apparatus sent the Minister on to RTE Radio 1’s Drive Time show, to debate the “statutory implement” with the MD of Blacknight.  Afterwards Minister Sherlock posted an eight line comment and posted a link to the radio show on his page. As if to say, you have your answers now, let that be the end of that.

Anybody with a modicum of online nous would know selecting RTE Radio was akin to sending a Muslim Cleric to the Vatican to preach the Koran. Wrong location, wrong audience. The minister has to defend his position on Facebook where people are making an effort by posting their views. By using RTE the Government and Minister was telling the Facebook users that their comments didn’t matter, which was insulting and arrogant.

I spent the last week following these developments. From what I can see the Ministers hands are tied. He is painted into a corner by the Scarlet and Charleton judgments. The Facebook protesters are worried that this will lead to censorship and sites will be closed down. This in turn will lead to jobs being lost, something we can do without right now.

I do have one question, this law has being ratified a few years in some countries. How many sites have being closed due to this law? Anybody know?

This is a knowledge, strategy and training issue for the Government and Minister. It will probably compound the belief with in Government that online can not be taken seriously for rational debate and for that reason should avoided. That would be a mistake on behalf of politicians. The web is a tough mistress but if harnessed correctly the power of community could make it a potent tool. It does make for interesting viewing but I wish the Minister well and I hope he starts to get good advice, soon. Up to now the bad advice has compounded his issues and the frustration levels of all involved.

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