I’ve organised my fair share of Facebook campaigns over the years – some with tremendous success and others that went nowhere. I’ve also spoken to people who have run major Facebook activities in the past, people like Anton Abele whose Stop Street Violence campaign became front page news in Sweden.
The basic consensus is that organising anything on Facebook gets harder with every passing week. The novelty factor has worn off. We’ve seen everything, tried everything. In short we have increasing Facebook fatigue in the social network’s mature markets, and whatever activity – from organising a birthday party to a political campaign – requires more reminders and more networking than before, and even so results are more patchy.
So then, you’re Jordan Blackshaw or Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and you want to organise a riot. How likely are your appeals to succeed? Neither were successful, but both were imprisoned for 4 years (pending appeals). The problem a court faces is to work out how likely were they to succeed?
Take the analogy of attempted murder. If I point a loaded gun at your head and pull the trigger, chances are high I will succeed, so even if I don’t manage for some reason I would almost certainly get a long sentence for attempted murder. If I try to kill you with a teaspoon and, unsurprisingly, do not succeed, chances are lower I’m going to get a hefty sentence.
So is Facebook the virtual gun, or the virtual teaspoon? The problem is that it could be either. This is the nub of the issue. Facebook has the potential to be tremendously successful to organise social unrest (ask Wael Ghonim), but equally could be totally useless. Eventually our media, politicians and courts will understand that, but until they do, I fear that odd sentences are going to be the norm.