Social media is unsocial now

The world has not been the same ever since the advent of social media. Today, nothing commands more power than the internet-fuelled social media in terms of its reach, influence and impression on masses across the globe. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their ilk have taken the world by storm and netizens are addicted to the daily dose of internet. Just open Youtube or Facebook on your cell-phone and you will be bombarded with all sorts of news, entertainment and gossip happening in your neighbourhood streets, local markets, cities and everywhere else, even the remotest corners of planet Earth. Social media has overtaken the conventional modes of mass-media like newspapers, television and radio.

Theoretically, everything looks good about social media and its capability to reach its audience within a fraction of a second but if you look minutely and analyse it, then you will realise that social media also possesses the capacity to destroy the world and its foundations. In fact, it would not be wrong to rate social media as a bigger potential threat than even nuclear weapons. This is because it has the inherent speed and visual optics to appeal to the masses and  initiate chain reactions amongst people regardless of geographical boundaries.

The recent dastardly lone-wolf terror attack by a white supremacist in the two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand has made it clear that social media can be easily used to radicalise the minds of the youth as well as spread the seeds of hatred, intolerance and revengeful attacks in a sinister way. Therefore, it was only through the power of social media that the perpetrator managed to push his extremist killer agenda into the mainstream of societies across the length and breadth of globe.

Earlier also, social media has been misused by terror outfits like ISIS to send brutal chilling messages to people, in videos and pictures of beheading their victims or shooting down of their prisoners in Iraq. The ‘fidayeen’ terrorist who stormed his SUV into the CRPF convoy in Pulwama had also used social media to air his pre-recorded video, which went viral immediately after the gruesome terror attack that killed more than 40 soldiers. The slain terrorist Burhan Wani was also a product of social media.

In India, in particular, the social media have also been mischievously used to stoke communal passions and create communal disharmony through fanning the acts of mob-lynching, cow-vigilantism and war-mongering.

In view of all these instances, it is important to nail the ill-effects of social media and control it appropriately before the situation gets out of hand. Companies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc., which makes billions of dollars from their platforms, have a legal, moral and social responsibility to put in adequate monitoring mechanisms to actively regulate and supervise the content that is uploaded on their sites.

Luring the youth

Terrorist outfits are openly luring the youth through these sites and through the medium of the ‘Dark Web’ to indulge in illegal activities like making crude bombs, drug-smuggling, arms rackets, etc. Innumerable fake profiles and dubious multiple identities of people exist on Facebook, Instagram, etc., which are used to spread malicious content on the internet. Through fake IDs, people on social media go on a verbal rampage in terms of assaulting, threatening and using abusive language to create mental trauma for other people, especially celebrities who are often body-shamed, etc.

The least these social media companies can do is to verify the online identities of those people who are their active users and delete the doubtful IDs from their platforms which are not matched through proper channels. In fact, proofs of identity like Aadhaar, driving licence, PAN card, Passport, etc., must be made compulsory for any person to create their account on social media websites. It is not only the terror of guns and bombs that social media needs to take care of but also the terror of destroying people’s reputations.

Social media has become a monster of sorts. If it is not tackled right now, it will be too late to put the genie back into the bottle. A lot of damage has already been done. Let us try to fix the problem without further procrastination. The war against terrorism cannot be won merely through Ak-47s, F-16s or MIG 21s unless we recognise the reality that terrorism has entered our living rooms through the internet-powered, smartphone-enabled social media sites.

Cyber terrorism is a collective threat to humanity, and it is time to log off from the virtual world of social media and shake our senses up to take control of our lives before we end up destroying ourselves. Needless to say, the social media have become unsocial. Is there anyone still left who has not signed out yet? Well, you can log in at your own risk! 

(The writer is a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Punjab)

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