Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 01 December 2021 12.40 AM IST

Social Media: Plugged and Unplugged


Social media is the fifth element today. By making distance a hoax and time a myth the social media has made us netizens overnight. It has redefined the Good Samaritan story. Today, our neighbours are in other time zones. It is a blessing. It saves not only time, but lives as well. However, it is only one more tool among millions of them. The problem is that the world of tools has improved so much but man who uses them remains the same. A tool is only as good or bad as the user. It can't speculate or choose for itself. Speculation and choice are still our privilege. When our speculation is evil and our choice is destructive, it backfires in the long run. Taking responsibility on themselves, some governments have taken it upon themselves to have regulations and set standards for the use of social media and curb its powers as and when necessary. Hence the argument that social media should be regulated and that standards should be set for the way it works is being raised by responsible civil society and governments. There are two sides to this fight for control. For example, in a fascist and religious country, such regimes would resist any attempt by progressives to oppose or criticise human rights violations, lack of freedom, or scientific irrationality on social media. At the same time, the fascist regime will make good use of these media for their anti-democratic tendencies. Social media is a blessing and a curse according to the mindset of the users.

Speed and efficiency are the key words in the world of communication. Means of communication became vogue depending on these two factors at every point in human history. Telephones and telegrams displaced drum beats, pigeons, runners, horses, bicycles, ships, motor vehicles, and airplanes which were widely used to deliver text messages. With the advent of computers, internet and mobile phones, every day radical changes are taking place in the field of communication. Both desirable and undesirable interactions are possible through these media. It seems to be the propriety of those who handle it. The smartphone is one of the biggest contributors to digital technology. This handheld device can quickly transmit audio and video messages from one corner of the world to the other. This modern device has shrunk the world to a few square inches of LED screens on your palm. With the advent of smartphone-based social media, a great world of communication and expression has opened up. It overthrew many practices and monopolies. Individuals, tiny cliques and large organizations have benefited equally from the ability to use the phone, camera, and tape recorder in a single device. Human society as a whole has adopted it as a means of communication that transcends the boundaries of religions, languages and nations. The unprecedented advancement in information technology has made many activities in social life much easier and simpler. Social media is leading the way in warning us of natural disasters, and educating people about preventive measures and gives proper precautions in the event of a pandemic like corona. It is also making it easier for campaigns to sprout and social movements to spread around the world. We have seen the role played by social media during the disaster management phase during the floods and other disasters like Oki in Kerala. But demented people can also mislead people through social media. One of the reasons why many riots are rampant these days is that through false propaganda on social media fake news can spread easily. When this happens, the authenticity of social media is never questioned. It is in this context that democracies seek to monitor and curb anti-social behaviour on social media. India too has now formulated and implemented a new IT policy. India has introduced the IT Act in view of the recommendations of the Supreme Court and the concerns raised in the Parliament. Social media, digital news media and Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms will now have to comply with the guidelines in the new IT Act. The violence that followed the farmers' strike at Red Fort on January 26, 2021, forced India to implement these IT laws immediately.

Content that undermines India's unity, integrity, defence, security, sovereignty and friendly relations with foreign countries should not be published. Do not post defamatory, obscene or sexually explicit images, videos or content on social media. The IT laws stipulate that content that is offensive, harassing or racially abusive on the basis of gender is not allowed. Movies and audio programs on online platforms also need to be pre-screened before they go on air. There has been a lot of criticism and protest against the new IT law. Allegations have been made that the media is facing a situation similar to media censorship during the Emergency. Those who raise criticisms and allegations here are missing out on the destructive activities being carried out against the country through social media. While philanthropists form communities through social media carry out charitable activities during times of disaster, another faction is trying to spread hate speech and overthrow the country's law and order. Organizations like Islamic State are spreading their inhuman propaganda through social media. Shouldn't it be controlled when such rebellious and perverse forces, which don't even have an iota of care and responsibility, poison the country? When a government elected by the people rules a nation and some factional groups try to destabilize and overthrow that government, the patriots must resist it. If anti-national activities are relentlessly spread and called for on social media, it must be curbed. The owners of social media are corporate entities. Their morality will therefore be based only on money. They have no obligation to assume the responsibility or duty of a government elected by the people. Social media is ultimately just a private industry based on digital technology. How can they be above the law?

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