Governments must not blame, and therefore limit, the technology. Rather, an appropriate response lies in the more challenging task of promoting responsible use of the technology. While there is a risk it will be misused, communications technology must continue to be available for the free circulation of information and the expression of democratic rights.
The power of social media to promote democracy, in particular, should not be underestimated. It can help give a collective voice to those at the bottom of the political pyramid, who are often -- though not always --- poor and marginalised.
Certainly in Egypt, social media have had a profound and welcome effect on the nature of political action. New technology has brought to life US 'founding father' Thomas Jefferson's maxim: 'Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government'.
But there is a darker side too, as the United Kingdom riots showed. The same 'crowd-sourcing' technology that can rapidly create an amusing mass dance event can equally easily be used for less acceptable, and even illegal, purposes.
There is also the risk of false information being circulated, deliberately or otherwise. Some of this may be harmless. But misleading information can have serious and damaging consequences, such as false rumours of a tsunami heading for Indonesia in March, which was linked with at least one fatal heart attack and numerous injuries in traffic accidents.
Instant, unrestricted access to information is therefore a mixed blessing. Like almost any new technology, social media can be used or misused. The political challenge is to design controls that discriminate effectively between the two.
There is no case for draconian action. Indeed, even controls that may appear relatively benign in one context can take on a broader significance when they are quoted as a precedent in another. There is a danger, for example, that any attempt to limit the use of mobile phones in a relatively minor event, will be used by others to justify much more serious action.
As one Egyptian blogger, Mostafa Hussein, has said, 'it's a slippery slope.' Journalists in particular have reason to be concerned. Social media channels can provide a wealth of sources for investigative reporting through the breadth and speed of their reach.
And it is precisely at times when social tensions are high that accurate and timely reporting is most needed. Anything that impedes this should be opposed. The correct response to the misuse of social media is not to restrict its application, but to ensure that its use remains within accepted legal boundaries, and that breaking these rules has an appropriate penalty.
Hasty overreaction, in particular where it seeks to target the technology rather than the way it is used, will only be counter-productive by generating a powerful backlash of distrust in authorities.