I’ve come to accept the place social media has in our twenty-first-century lives and although I bemoan the fact that real-life communication is being replaced by virtual communication, that real-life friendships are losing out to virtual friendships, and that the very nature of social media seems to have instilled in us all a need to share the most mundane details of our lives, I can see the benefits. The Arab Spring is a case in point. The Occupy movement is another.
But what happens when social media is used for nefarious purposes? How wicked can it get? Last week, here in Budapest, a flashmob convened outside László Csatáry’s home last week. I’ve watched some of the videos shot that day and it seems to have been a peaceful protest against the crimes of man who was allegedly instrumental in sending 300 so-called alien Jews to their death in Kamenetz-Podolsk in Ukraine in 1941. A long time ago, admittedly, but as William Shakespeare put it so succinctly, time is the justice that examines all offenders.
The day after the flashmob, the right-wing website kuruc.info enlisted the help of its readers to identify those who had exercised their democratic right to protest and to stand up against what they believed to be wrong. Kuruc.info even offered a reward of 100 000 forints (€350) for the most useable information. Word has it that within just 48 hours, more than 90 000 readers had managed to identify most of the participants, so-called anti-Hungarian Jews, who are now reportedly being harassed via phone and Internet.
I wonder if this use of social media (YouTube and blogs) as a virtual ‘line up’ will hamper protests and demonstrations? Will participation in peaceful protests become an invitation to harass?