Misuse of social media: A tragedy of the modern era

Published : Tuesday, 20 December, 2022 at 12:00 AM

In this era of technology, social media platforms have come out as one of the strongest source of news. We have seen social media play a significant role in a variety of political, economic, and social events. While many see this as a blessing, it also has a negative side as fake news and rumors spread swiftly through social media and frequently impair users’ judgment. Social media has on numerous instances been crucial in shaping protests or unrest. Conflicts with personal space and security have seldom arisen as a result. Thus, safeguarding social media’s integrity has grown in importance in today’s society.

Social media has been abused in Bangladesh on numerous times to start social, religious, political, and economic unrest. Misrepresentation, disinformation, and toxic content have wreaked major havoc. Only about a year separates us from the 12th national parliamentary election, and it is certain that social media will be utilized to inflame political conflict during this time. Additionally, recent social media stories about bank liquidity, inflation, and the economic crisis, many of which were untrue, proliferated and frightened people. To maintain peace throughout the nation, the Bangladeshi government and law enforcement agencies will need to be more cautious in how they handle this phenomenon.

All social media platforms are seeing an increase in the spread of fake news, hate speech, and misinformation. As more and more people rely on social media as a news source, there are concerns that this content may sway viewers who are unable to separate news from propaganda or fact from opinion. The immense impact of social media is obvious. There are around 300 million new photos published to Facebook every day, while 6,000 Tweets are generated every second. Over 500 million people use the messaging app Telegram, while the most popular YouTube channels have over 14 billion weekly views.

Social media misinformation is becoming a plague, and fake news is the biggest nuisance. Nowadays, false news is more prevalent, which causes worries on a worldwide scale, particularly when considering the potential impact of fake news on election results. After all, voters may choose to cast their ballot based on inaccurate information. Fake news is now a more significant issue than ever before due to the expansion of alternative news outlets and the use of social media as a platform. However, we are still unsure of the exact effects of fake news.

In order to affect people’s views of reality, fake news�news pieces that are blatantly and demonstrably false�has been used to sway politics and advance commercial interests. But it has also evolved into a strategy for igniting and escalating social conflict. False news is used by individuals, groups, and governments�both domestic and foreign�for two main purposes. In order to erode people’s confidence in democracy and their capacity for cooperation, they first escalate social conflict. Second, they divert attention away from pressing concerns, causing them to remain unresolved.

A UN survey claims that about forty-two percent of people use social media and that sixty-three percent of the world’s population currently accesses the internet. Social media has ingratiated itself into daily life and ushers in the era of gossip and whispers. People now have access to cutting-edge methods of spreading knowledge thanks to the internet. They are quickly assuming the role of information warriors as a result. Through explicit distortion and misinformation, it invokes the curse of the willful dissemination of lies. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research, it took the truth approximately six times longer to reach 1500 individuals than it did to spread incorrect information. The study also reveals that false information was 70% more likely to spread than actual news.

Dictatorial nations and non-state entities utilize social media platforms to distract people from reality in the modern day without actually starting a conflict or accepting responsibility. Historically, during elections, pandemics, and times of war, states that support tyranny have utilized similar tactics to sway public opinion in their favor.

Social media is another tool used by terrorist organizations and non-state actors to spread fear among a larger public. It clarifies the purpose of ISIS’s social media postings, which is to bring attention to the group and spread fear among the populace. Terrorists use social media platforms to spread their propaganda for pressuring governments by inspiring chaos and terror in populations. It is true that the fear factor is more devastating than reality. At this time, it is possible to attack weak states, collapse communities, and scandalize individuals.

More than ever, social media is dividing and riling up communities. To solve unique problems in a cunning way, however, requires novel ways. According to a study by the University of East London, if just 30% of social media users verify the veracity of a message before sharing it, they can stop fake news from spreading. Every nation, group, and person on the earth must understand that even the smallest disparaging tweet or social media post about a group or an individual creates hatred between nations, communities, and people.

Communities must therefore be warned about the evil use of social media. Governments, universities, and media organizations should launch efforts to expose the evil realities of information warfare. The world community should wisely deal with the proliferation of fake news, and effective remedies should include advising people to stay away from posts devoid of verifiable facts and solid proof. Artificial intelligence can reduce the spread of false information on social media through nefarious efforts. It can filter social media posts by understanding them in light of the data supplied in those posts.

Social media has many worthwhile purposes, but it also has drawbacks. By investing in individuals, the world can overcome its negative impacts. Social media is an international phenomenon; hence no one nation can regulate it. The unwarranted use of social media can only be discouraged by imaginative leadership from global leaders. Social media platforms cannot be outlawed as a solution; instead, the world must close the security gaps that enable its unethical usage. But if society ignores the necessity of keeping an eye on social media, the plague of skewed propaganda and fake news will plunge this globe into an upheaval of anarchy.

Multiple social media platforms have been sued for acting as a destabilizing force in various nations. Different social networking platforms are prohibited in various nations. Additionally, Meta was recently sued in several nations. However, these controls or penalties are not actually making a difference because it is difficult to prevent social media abuse if users are not conscious of them.

The Information Technology & Communication Act of 2006 offers some defense against social media abuse for Bangladeshi nationals.  The Act was originally enacted by the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in November to regulate digital communications. The ICT Act, 2006 was amended by an Ordinance on 20 August 2013, and subsequently passed as law on 9 October 2013 by the Parliament.The Act is frequently criticized, however despite its misuse, the law genuinely benefits individuals if implemented properly. Due to the growth of social media, print media readers are currently dropping quickly. But on social media, bogus news and rumors are undermining real journalism. Therefore, those who are actual journalists will be most impacted. To stop the misuse of social media, the ICT Act, 2006 should be enforced more effectively without harassing anyone who is innocent.

The right to free expression is frequently used to preserve online transparency. However, freedom of speech cannot be linked to defamation or the abuse of any group or individual. The boundary must be clearly defined. The government and social organizations must undertake effective campaigns as needed. Because most Internet and social media users in Bangladesh lack sufficient education, the issue could get worse for us. Social media will be harder to govern in the future if we don’t assure good use of it now. We thus hope that everyone who can help the cause would step up to curb social media abuse. We hope that social media will actually become a blessing for everyone rather than a curse.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, BangabandhuShishu Kishore Mela

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