The trouble is, of course, that we can't roll back the years. We can't de-invent the nuclear bomb or some of the technological 'advances' that now create – according to the Law of Unintended Consequences – complex ethical dilemmas for us. We now live in the “we can, therefore we must” rather than the “you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is' generation.
This applies also to media. New social media bring particular challenges to an ordered society and this has been evidenced again by the killing of a soldier in Woolwich last week. The ubiquity and immediacy of social media and smart phones provide fantastic tools for social communication and democratising informant sharing. However, they also create other problems – for example, in relation to law, due process and our ability to sustain the assumptions upon which our legal system has been based for centuries.
I have just read a piece by solicitor, David Cook, that pushes this a little further. Concerned by the recording and broadcasting of one of the accused talking to camera, he asks if the media reality will, in the end, (a) make prosecution more difficult, and/or (b) force a change to law to remove the role of potential prejudice in a widely-reported case.
This is not an easy one. The 'rights' of the media to report (and of individuals to record and propagate) any incident that happens in the public square potentially clashes against a process in which even an apparently culpable suspect is due a fair trial. Compromise this notion of 'innocence until proven guilty' and we will encounter further 'unintended consequences in the future.