It was another victory for social media when Brigham Young University made the decision to lift their ban on the online video-sharing website, YouTube, citing that the wealth of educational content justified allowing it to be available as a campus-wide tool.
This event closely follows suit to the Army’s recent OPORD issued by the 7th Signal Command, which opened access to 5 major social networking sites on up to 81 military bases and installations across the Continental United States.
BYU’s decision to reverse the ban certainly adds credence to the arguments made by supporters of social media in the ongoing debate regarding its credibility. The conservative institution may not have the same bureaucratic pitfalls inherent in the government (and to include the Army), but the debates within academia about how to address social media – be it access or within the curriculum, do mirror the struggles we see in DoD and the Army.
In addition, universities and the Department of Defense have one very strong similarity – they’re both run by a demographic of people who are a far cry from being considered “digital natives,” but the majority of their people happen to be just that – young, and highly connected via social networking platforms. The intellectual debate concerning social media isn’t only a government issue; it happens to be one we’re seeing in corporate America and major universities. My guess is that all of us will continue to see the access debate for months and years to come. Access will open and close as the issues of security and transparency tip the scales in one direction or another.
There are still many reasons why lifting restrictions to such sites may be ill-advised, such as those from a security perspective. Is it worth opening the portals to You Tube when it’s drawing resources from other areas and opening up a security risk? I’d love to see your debate in the comments section.
Security analysts aside, there is a growing number of allies to social media, including top-level military and government officials, who feel the advantages of using social media far outweigh the disadvantages. It is believed that because it is such a powerful mode of communication, it can be used by the soldiers to “tell the Army story,” in an intimate firsthand account. And as we wrote about last week, Iran’s “Twitter Revolution” has demonstrated to many that it isn’t just a communications platform, is a strategic messaging tool that has already made its footprint in history.