Former UK Labour prime minister Tony Blair has said that governments need to recognise the disruptive power of social media , but that social media itself cannot be used to govern.
The events of the Arab spring, which saw protest movements in North Africa and the Middle East coordinated with social media such as Facebook and Twitter could more accurately be described as the Arab Revolution, Blair told the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Friday.
"We live in an era of uniquely low predictability," Blair told the audience. "I can't remember a time in politics when events have been so uncertain, decisions have been so difficult, and the stakes have been so high."
Technology has been instrumental in toppling governments that have previously seemed unshakeable, said Blair.
"You have the power of technology itself, which has played such a huge part in transforming the way we live, the way we think, the way we work," said Blair. "In respect of the events which are dominating the world at the moment like the Arab revolution... technology is playing a fundamental part in creating the circumstances in which this revolutionary mood takes hold and in which governments that have been there for years and years, with a supposedly firm grip on power, find that power shaken to their roots."
While social media is "a tremendous instrument for protest," government should not use social media as an instrument of government, said Blair. This flies in the face of efforts made by the Conservative Party in the UK to engage with voters via social media, for example, on Twitter.