What is the difference between state surveillance and the Orwellian idea of Big Brother?
State surveillance is commonly associated with the Orwellian idea of ‘Big Brother’, that the state is an all-seeing organisation that exercises total control over people’s lives. Although social media was well before Orwell’s time, social media based surveillance provides a modern-day extension of his theory. One of the most famous examples of government surveillance via social media came during the 2011 UK riots following the death of Mark Duggan in North London. Prime Minister at the time David Cameron even insinuated that social media was the reason behind the riots. The home office then went on to blame social media for enabling the criminal behaviour. The police were using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to try to catch those involved in the rioting. Blackberry agreed to co-operate with law enforcement after their messaging service BBM played an apparent large role in the organisation and communication of the riots. Several arrests indicated that they were allowed to sift through BBM messages to discover who was involved in the rioting but neither the government nor Blackberry gave away any details about their co-operation. Even The Data Protection act that usually prevents activities like these has a get out clause for when it is clearly a crime has been committed. This example shows the extent to which social media has influenced surveillance culture as it is now being used as a government tool to oppose public disobedience. We see it link to Foucault’s idea of Panopticism as although the criminal behaviour has been carried out, the fact that many of them were punished through being caught via social networking it reinforces the concept of discipline that Foucault aligned so closely to Panopticism.