Everyone complains about how ISIS is so proficient with social media, how they are creating slickly produced videos, and the power of their propaganda. Social media, however, offers a different form of media, and the media itself, the technology, is neutral.
Just as the civilized world is protesting against the way ISIS is using social media, it hailed the use of media in spreading the Arab spring, in helping people resist tyrants around the world. Government agencies, more known for their sluggish response to change, are struggling to keep up, both with the good and bad uses of social media.
Perhaps the most frustrating element about social media to many in the political world involves its culture of free speech. The thing about freedom of speech, as we in America well know, occurs when people say hateful things, when tasteless adult material floods the Internet, when, in short, we do not agree with the values espoused by a particular element.
The proper response, however, does not involve shutting down the media, but rather showing how the arguments espoused are erroneous and faulty. Free speech is best battled by more free speech not less.
No one is forcing people to watch a beheading; they must seek it out, generally to satisfy their own inquisitiveness. They, then, have no right to complain about the content of the video. The technology of social media is value-neutral; only the postings and habits of its users imbue it with meaning.