[Editorial] The Night The Internet Listened to Boston


Editor’s Note: I have always maintained a rule for Anjel Syndicate that we would avoid certain issues, events, and kinds of content. However, tonight is something of a special case in my mind and to that end, please excuse me. This won’t be a gaming story; this isn’t a political story either. This is an Internet story, about the internet upon which Anjel Syndicate lives and breathes as we bring our content to you, our readers.

This is about the night that the internet listened to Boston. I’m pretty confident you all know the events of this week, and I am not going to reiterate them for this piece.

I do want to take a moment to express our thoughts and prayers for the city of Boston. I also want to express our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all the first responders, law enforcement, doctors, and heroes of Boston.

It goes without saying that this has been one hell of a week, and from an internet perspective it’s another example of the weight and power of the internet. We’ve seen hints and examples of this before with events in Egypt and the Arab Spring to the SOPA and PIPA protests. However tonight, the internet was focused on the city of Boston and the hunt for a suspect.

As I sit here in the aftermath, having heard the Boston Police scanner and calls of “The Suspect is in custody” I feel a mix of triumph for the valiant efforts of those involved; and an almost overwhelming awe.

I, like many others have been glued to social media, a live stream of a Boston PD scanner, and in the background was CNN. That situation right there encapsulates my thoughts. We weren’t watching with avid anticipation and suspense to the television. Whenever I looked or listened to CNN all i saw was reporters clustered around each other rehashing news over and over again, when they weren’t asking for information from “Control”. Or more often than not, just plain looks of complete dumbfounded-ness as they had no idea what was going on, they had to filter what they could relate and it made for a lot of uncomfortable airtime.

However, on the opposite side of the media spectrum, across social media news reports, breaking news, information crumbs, speculation, discussion, and insights are flying instantaneously around the planet. That’s not to say that all of it was factual, correct, or completely true. However it was happening live, in real time, we as a community of internet citizens were banding together to watch, read, listen, and relay whatever information came in. This is what the internet in action looks like.

Leading sources for the night was of course @Boston_Police, but equally on target with all the information as it came in was @YourAnonNews. One was obviously filtering what they were releasing, while the other was dropping every scrap of information that came. Say what you will about Anonymous as a group, or collective and actions committed in the name of that faceless group. For tonight however, the person (people) running the @YourAnonNews twitter account was running full steam with news, updates, speculation, rumors, and everything in-between.

The ironic thing is that during the majority of this, it all seemed completely normal to me. News was breaking on social media rapidly, well ahead of traditional media, quite often accurately, some mistakes were made, and those whom made mistakes were quick to own those mistakes and apologize for them.

What really struck me, and what comes to the point of this piece is listening to the Boston police scanner and hearing the discussion about how they were looking for alternate communications as “People on the internet are listening”.

What a powerful statement that is, if there was one statement that sums up our current digitally connected society; it was listening to a police officer cautioning other officers that the internet was listening.

It’s a powerful thing to have that kind of recognition being spoken about the internet; powerful and dangerous. Personally, as a listener, I myself am responsible for what I do with the information that was suddenly coming to me unfiltered across the web. Even having access to something doesn’t mean you will do something irresponsible with it. There are many who surely would/will/did; I can only speak for myself.

Yes I made comments on non-operational related components of what was said over the scanner. Having that kind of access puts a level of social responsibility on all of us. If we truly want to have an open and free society with information available we have to make use of it responsibly. Accountability becomes shared, and when you look at the information being thrown around the world on social media the same is true As was said in the after action period following the suspect being taken into custody. There is a lot of trust being displayed between us citizens of the web when we share and participate in the spread of events online.

I fully expect that we’re going to see and hear a lot of discussion about this night and the internet’s role in events. There are social, political, and even safety consequences that need to be discussed. I won’t go into those now, and if I do it won’t be on Anjel Syndicate for obvious reasons. There is so much more I could say, want to say, or perhaps should say. But now isn’t the time, and this isn’t the platform to do so. Here is my final thoughts on this subject for tonight….

As a citizen of the internet however, running a new media outlet such as Anjel Syndicate, my main take away from the internet and social media side of tonight is simply this.

The Internet is listening, always.

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