Responsible use of social media

While add­ressing the aw­ard-giving ceremony of Digital Bangladesh Day 2019 on Wednes­day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the country’s people not to share anything on internet or social media without verifying the authenticity of any social media content. 

The menace of misinformation online has gained considerable media and political attention and plausible solutions for combatting misinformation have often been less than satisfactory. In an environment of ubiquitous online social sharing, it is the individuals that can play a major role in halting the spread of misinformation. The communal and rapid-fire nature of many social media platforms creates the potential for errors and falsehoods – an emerging practice in conflict-related propaganda – to go viral.

It is needless to say that computer systems have now become integral to the daily functioning of business, organization and individual. Hence, we often place our important information on them. Since societies and governments are becoming more reliable with respect to information technology, they are also becoming vulnerable to all sorts of cyber threats. And that’s why information revolution is often termed as a double-edged sword.

The rapid growth of internet has made us able to get news and other information out faster than ever, but we’ll break it all if we don’t verify and get it right. There are two key elements: the source of a piece of content, and the content itself. These two components must be independently verified, and compared against each other to see if they tell a consistent story. It’s often the case online that a piece of content is real, but the person who has shared it isn’t the original creator. Or, alternatively, a trustworthy source may have fallen for a hoax.

The speed of social media and the sheer volume of user-generated content make fact-checking even more important now. Social media can provide instant news faster than traditional news outlets or sources and can be a great wealth of information, but there is also an ever increasing need to verify and determine accuracy of this information. It is important to remember that fast does not always mean accurate.

How to identify credible information on social media can be challenging. Rumors and misinformation can spread quickly through social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook. Some of the criteria used to evaluate Internet sources, such as being skeptical, asking questions, looking at the quality of the source of the information, still apply in social media.

The speed of social media and the sheer volume

 of user-generated content make fact-checking even

 more important now. Social media can provide instant

 news faster than traditional news outlets or sources

 and can be a great wealth of information, but there is also

 an ever increasing need to verify and

 determine accuracy of this information. 

It is important to remember that fast 

does not always mean accurate

Facebook, Google and others can foster addiction – and can be used to undermine democracy. As long as social media – unregulated – is allowed to spread prejudice and falsehood, and build a dominant position in advertising, it is a threat to democracy.

The challenges posed by internet platform monopolies require new approaches beyond antitrust enforcement. We must recognise and address these challenges as a threat to public health. One possibility is to treat social media in a manner analogous to tobacco and alcohol, combining education and regulation. For the sake of restoring balance to our lives and hope to our politics, it is time to disrupt the disrupters.

There is strong public interest in having Facebook regulated as a media company. Lawmakers must consider ways of curbing how it uses data to target advertisements and what information it makes available to third parties. Like any other media company, it ought to face strict advertising regulations and tough transparency requirements in elections. Given its dominance in digital advertising, Facebook, which also runs Instagram and WhatsApp, is a candidate to be broken up. Like many tech firms, Facebook promo­tes the idea its commercial interest is intertwined with the public interest. That has led to an abuse of power and a threat to democracy, which lawmakers have a duty to find the best protections against.

Over the last several years, we not only have gained huge success in ICT sector but also experienced several instances of cybercrimes. We have experienced misuse of social media driven by propaganda and unauthentic information. Moreover, identifying the actual source of wrongful activities remained a challenge for developing countries, laying importance on access of the developing countries to the technologies and information to detect such evil activities. In this regard, mechanisms so far used for cyber security should be made more inclusive, and the question of rights and freedom in cyberspace needs to be duly addressed as well.

Sayeed Hossain Bhuiyan Shuvro is Editorial Assistant, Bangladesh Post