Back in February, I described in this space a sudden rise in the influence and power of social networks over both governments and corporations.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) were broadly favored by Congress. But when Google+, Twitter and Facebook users united against them, Congress reversed itself and killed the bills.
Then news about diagnostic snoopware installed on millions of phones tore through the social networks. The software, created by a company called Carrier IQ and used by carriers and handset makers to monitor user activities, generally freaked people out. The company’s partners rushed to announce that they would remove the software.
I also reported on the defeat of a non-profit organization by the power of social networks. An organization called Susan G. Komen for the Cure was forced to reverse its decision to revoke some funding from Planned Parenthood. And heads rolled.
Yes, the media and other factors came into play. But public pressure by social networks is brand new, and is an additional and powerful medium for mobilizing public opinion and individual action by the public (such as voting or boycotting).
In February, I wondered if such dramatic defeats at the hands of the social networks was a fluke or a trend. And now we know: It’s a trend, and a growing one.
Pink slime never had a chance. Officially called "lean, finely textured beef," "pink slime" is basically slaughterhouse cow scraps blended into a pulp and sterilized with ammonia.
For decades, a cooked version of “pink slime” was used mainly in dog food, but migrated into the human food supply a few years ago when they figured out how to sterilize the raw version.
As an industrial food ingredient, it’s less toxic and less disgusting than many other fillers and additives in packaged food. But the fact that it’s called “pink slime” and looks horrible in the widely distributed photos sealed its fate on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Hundreds of millions of vocal social network users delivered a resounding “thumbs down” to this unattractive foodstuff.
Then the advocates ran for cover.
First, the fast-food chains each announced that they’d stop using “pink slime.”
When reports began circulating in March that the government had bought seven million pounds of the stuff to be fed to kids in public school cafeterias, the social networks went ballistic. The government reversed its decision and canceled the order.
Then the big supermarket chains announced that they too would stop using it as a “filler” in ground beef.
Almost overnight, the social networks practically eliminated “pink slime” from the mainstream food supply.
Back in January, The New York Times began a series of exposes on health and safety issues at the Chinese factories where many Apple products are made.