We have learned that Chris MacDonald quickly analyzes current events for ethical issues and can be counted on to get a post up in a day or less. This is one of those.
My favorite paragraph is this one –
The question is complicated by questions of precedence. Tech companies have come under fire for assisting governments in, for example, China, to crack down on dissidents. Of course, the UK government isn’t anything like China’s repressive regime. But at least some people are pointing to underlying social unrest, unemployment etc., in the UK as part of the reason — if not justification — for the riots. And besides, even if it’s clear that the UK riots are unjustifiable and that the UK government is a decent one, companies like RIM are global companies, engaged in a whole spectrum of social and political settings, ones that will stubbornly refuse to be categorized. Should a tech company help a repressive regime stifle peaceful protest? No. Should a tech company help a good and just government fight crime? Yes. But with regard to governments, as with regard to social unrest, there’s much more grey in the world than black and white.
We’re going to come across this issue again and again. Modern social unrest, justified, unjustified or simply beyond our understanding, is now also a product of social networking. As these machines gain complexity and power, so will the possibilities of social action. We are entering a new world in which a protest or similar action can be organized in very short chunks of times. Flyers and bullhorns are as obsolete as Egyptian hieroglyphs in this new climate of computer assisted unrest.