Student politicians learn from the worst

A quarter of a million twitter users’ accounts were hacked recently. It might sound like a lot but, according to The Huffington Post, it makes up just 0.25% of the 100 million monthly active users on the social networking site. Despite this, the media made a huge fuss over it – presumably due to the large percentage of the population signed up – despite the impact that was, for “a high profile” attack, rather underwhelming. At worst, a few will get some spam emails and others will have to change their passwords. That’s it.

Let’s be honest, that’s not the important bit of this story – there’s a more important aspect, but it’s not mentioned immediately. Continue reading and you’ll notice a few interesting points. First, you’ll realise that this was the attack of professional hackers. After that you’ll see that it’s the third such attack on a major site in a month. Then you’ll see that it’s believed these hackers were based in China.

The real story is that China is attacking our media. The question is Why? Well, the New York Times suggests that it’s because they embarrassed the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, by revealing how his relations had amassed a fortune through business. So, that’s what journalists do. Get over it. Sadly, this is how a totalitarian state like China works.

China doesn’t like being embarrassed. We can tell this because they hacked three of the biggest media outlets in the world. They didn’t even do anything and it was huge news – imagine the carnage they could have unleashed: censoring stories, introducing pro-China bias, or simply shutting them down… I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be noticed and acted upon quickly, but the idea that an entire nation can silence the media in other countries because they disagree with it is deeply worrying.

But, we don’t have to go China, or even across the Atlantic, to get a bit of censorship. Every day individuals and organisations take out injunctions to stop the press reporting something that might embarrass them. Including, bizarrely, the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) …against their own paper. “The Student” ran a front page splash on how EUSA took out the injunction to stop them reporting facts on why one of the union’s vice presidents was suspended last July.

The beginnings of this seem to be happening at my own university, Edinburgh Napier, after a meeting with union bigwigs last year, a student reported on a facebook group that the Napier Students Association (NSA) told them that “[The NSA] will want to look over what we write as they don’t want us slagging off the uni so anything negative about Tom Zanelli (the NSA president) won’t be allowed’.”

As much as I support student unions, the actions of EUSA and the talk from the NSA disgusts me. Student unions should be there to fight in the best interests of their members, not fight to be seen to be fighting in the best interest of their members.

Question everything. As the old saying goes: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is’.”

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