Social media and online video sharing are not immune to stereotypes. When you think of YouTube, your mind probably conjures images of a fifteen year-old boy surfing around for the latest fail blog clips. But carefree teenagers are not the only people taking advantage of online video sharing services; governments across the world, including the U.S. government, use online video sharing as a part of pursuing their goals and objectives, and this fact may want to make you rethink what you post and view while surfing the web.
Since 2009, U.S. government agencies have had the green light to post their content on sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, and blip.tv. However, government access did not come without a bucket full of legal negotiations that led to special terms and agreements between the two parties, and currently the government seems to be interested in using online video sharing for fairly benign purposes.
One government agency that has taken advantage of online video sharing and social networking like Twitter and Facebook is the Center for Disease Control or CDC. The CDC encourages the “strategic use of online-video sharing sites to effectively and inexpensively reach individuals with personalized and targeted health information” according to their website. They support posting health-related content as a free way of accessing information, a very altruistic goal in an age of astronomically increasing health care costs. It is also a very smart way of disseminating information in the tech savvy age. The CDC also has their very own online video sharing site, CDC-TV. CDC-TV hosts short, consumer friendly videos that users can view and share with family and friends. Additionally, the CDC has a Streaming Health channel on YouTube that contains nearly 60 informational videos on various health topics from the importance of vitamin D to HIV. The Streaming Health channel is an excellent compliment to CDC-TV because the majority of people might not think to go directly to the CDC’s website, but they may stumble across the free health information on YouTube.
To date, the government’s use of online video sharing has been in a spirit of helpfulness. We live in a very cynical world, often times rightly so, so the extent to which the government could actually be using online video sharing for more secretive purposes shouldn’t be discounted, but shouldn’t blown out of proportion either. Whatever the government’s motives, it is good to remember that while the internet comes with a lot of anonymity and freedom, the government and other figureheads of authority are also surfing the digital wave. What you post and view may not always be private and it sends a message out about who you are, even if what you post is just for fun. It is always good to keep that in the back of your mind, because these days privacy is getting harder to come by and you never know who could be watching.