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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Challenges Of Being Social In A Time Of Unrest

What is a website to do when it's become a platform for public outcry and organized opposition? When you are a social site that is being used by both government supporters and reform activists alike you have some tough decisions to make.

Flickr, it seems, has found itself at the center of an ethical quandary. The photo sharing giant owned by Yahoo has taken down photographs uploaded by an Egyptian blogger and human rights activist because the photos violated their terms of service. It seems that  Hossam el-Hamalawy posted the head shots of Egyptian State Police officers to Flickr in the hopes of making his countrymen aware of their identities and keeping them out of the new post revolution government. The problem is that el-Hamalawy did not take the photos himself but rather gained them through a raid on a State Police headquarters by revolutionaries.  Flickr removed the photos saying that el-Hamalawy did not take them himself and was therefore not the rightful owner, this is a violation of their terms.

While I sympathize with the plight of the Egyptian people and understand fully what Mr el-Hamalawy was attempting to do in identifying figures known to be associated with a corrupt regime, I don't think it is Flickr's place to act as middle man in a political debate. They did the only thing that they could do, stick to their terms of service. Perhaps Wikileaks would have been a more appropriate platform for Mr. el-Hamalawy's cause.