Trafigura + Twitter = A Loss of Humanity

‘I dropped the remote in my dinner’, ‘I’m watching TV’, and ‘I’m bored as hell so playing on my phone’, are just some of the riveting tweets out there at the moment on Twitter.

It’s all absolutely nail-biting stuff, and makes me wonder how on earth I’ve survived the last 23 years of my life without knowing how the rest of the world are spending theirs.

You can update people on what you’re eating for lunch, how much you paid for a new pair of boots and even what you had to drink last night. And sometimes, just sometimes, you can use the 140 characters to overturn a law, restore freedom of speech and expose a gagged legal case for the world to see.

Super-Injunction

On Monday 12 October The Guardian announced over the internet that, due to a series of bans known as a ‘super-injunction’, they had been restricted from reporting details about a certain parliamentary question.

It was all very cryptic and spurred curious minds to do their own digging and grab their relevant tools (no, not a shovel and a spade; rather Twitter and a blog) to uncover what was going on.

A whole 42 minutes later, still glued to their keyboards, tweeters began to discover the various details about an oil company, called Trafigura, their solicitors, called Carter-Ruck, and massive amounts of toxic waste that had been dumped off the Ivory Coast. In effect, through social networking, people were able to expose the very story that the press were not allowed to.

Hurrah! Online Journalism – 1: Evil Multinational Company – 0.  

So The Guardian, Twitter and all those in between went off patting themselves on the back and commending their heroic work ensuring freedom of speech raineth down on us forever more.

30,000 Africans Injured

However, they largely seemed to be missing the main underlying issue: 30,000 Africans claimed to have been injured by the toxic sludge discarded off the shores of West Africa. Some of the world’s poorest people were and still are sick and many may never recover.

While it is indeed a breakthrough for social networks to gain the power to reverse legal rulings, and a testament to the infinite capacity of technology to breakdown the barriers that may have restricted (or even prevented) journalism in the past, you cannot forget that at the heart of this case are company greed at the cost of human life.

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