Cleaning up cyberspace

  • Social media has improved lives, but it has also been used to spread disinformation
- KABI ADHIKARI

Jul 12, 2017-Social media is one of the finest technological inventions bestowed upon humanity. It is a source of information and news. Busy people can stay updated by using their Android phones instead of looking for various newspapers in the market. Readers also provide their immediate response with their likes, comments and shares. Based on their shares, likes and comments, a writer can gauge the popularity of his or her write-up and obtain ideas to improve the next article. Social media also plays a very important role in providing exclusive news. Even renowned journalists from the topmost media houses relay news about national and international celebrities obtained through Tweets and Facebook posts. 

Questionable evolution

Social media users are not only limited to ordinary people. Government officials and employees of NGOs, INGOs and embassies are also very familiar with social media. They keep themselves updated and post their latest activities on social media. Some embassies in Kathmandu share their information through news portals on their Facebook page. About a decade ago, one had to wait for hours in a queue to make a phone call. The post office and courier services were the only media used for communication then, and they were not as swift as social media. 

Today, things have changed for the good or the bad in Nepal too. There is 

internet access in all districts. People are using Facebook and other social media networks and enjoying the benefits. To some extent, it has shortened the distance between people and made the world smaller. Social media, especially Facebook, has become the most common and comfortable means of exchanging news and information among people. It is also a way to become familiar with the ideologies of people through their status posts. In addition, Facebook has become one of the best platforms for certain people to either support or protest. Many reunion stories have been made possible by Facebook. The pivotal role it has played in bringing positive changes to people’s lives is admirable. 

On top of that, grandparents, parents and illiterate people have also benefitted greatly from social media. Group chatting, video calls and other facilities for communicating with people from all corners of the globe have replaced telephone calls and reinforced geographical proximity. Social networks have become an inseparable part of our lives in the modern world.

Meanwhile, we may notice that social media has also earned a negative image through its misuse. The language used on social media has been found to be troublesome. People have used these forums to defame others. Not only inappropriate comments, but also photos distorted with the help of Photoshop have been used to spread disinformation. The most worrisome trend is posting condolence messages with photos of living persons. And people spread them so quickly without crosschecking the facts. 

Responsible use

All said, there is a need to make proper use of social media. The trend of creating fake accounts, threatening people, misbehaving, writing vulgar comments and posting offensive photos is increasing in a rapid number. This directly hampers the personal life and security of people. Unfortunately, this is a drawback of advanced technology. Therefore, people must be aware about keeping themselves far from such criminal activities. Public awareness campaigns must be organised frequently by the concerned sectors. Significant attention has to be paid and penalties against those who undertake such activities have to be effective. For example, some offenders have been punished for cybercrime. Nonetheless, the punishment is only possible after somebody files a complaint.

The Nepal government has paid very little attention to the use of social media over the years. Social media has been personalised rather than institutionalised as only government personnel are closely connected with it. No adequate information can be found on government websites. Neither has the government become technology friendly nor has it taken any serious initiatives against the misuse of social media. No bold decision has been taken against stopping this illegal practice, though the issue has been discussed at certain levels. 

In order for social media to make positive progress and become less controversial, the government has to do its utmost to conduct awareness programmes time and again. The concerned authorities should play the role of watchdogs to make it more efficient. Everybody must make every possible effort to control misuse. Culprits must not be forgiven at any cost. The concerned sectors could use several means to minimise such activities to some extent, even though it has become a worldwide issue. Some developed countries have moved to control misuse of social media. If the current situation persists, it will definitely harm society on the pretext of advanced technology. 

 

Adhikari holds an MA in English literature from Tribhuvan University

Published: 12-07-2017 08:10

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