In my previous blog – Media: News or Drama? – I talked about how it was critical that the media be responsible for what is put out. It does not seem like a big ask, Infact, it is the least that the media can do – offer unbiased and accurate data to ensure that the audience gets the right information so that they can make an informed decision. The internet, while it is the primary source to find additional information and details about another individual, does not necessarily mean that the information it provides is correct or accurate. Unfortunately, even Wikipedia is not 100% accurate. While it offers free and reliable information instantly, as a user-generated source, it can be edited by anyone at any time. Any information it contains at a particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or just plain wrong.
Infact, in the United States, when the jury is deciding if the accused is guilty or innocent, they are asked not to read the papers or search the net for information. It creates bias, thereby bringing injustice.
Quoting something I may have stated only a few million times; with great power comes great responsibility. And to extend the quote (Sorry Stan Lee, hope you are ok with this 🙂 ) with this responsibility comes accountability as well. Social media is no exception. It can influence public opinion and must be held accountable for what is stated. The government is collaborating with social media platforms to take strong steps towards blocking social media accounts that share incorrect and inflammatory content. The content could be abusive and impact social order.
The strange thing is the jump in the number of blocked accounts. Exactly a year ago, Union Minister of State for IT and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar blocked 9849 social media accounts. This reflected a jump of almost 2,000 per cent since 2014, when 471 accounts were blocked.
In response to a query, Chandrasekhar said that the government was mindful that the “misuse” of social media is a source of “risk and danger”. He added that to minimise and address harms and to also have “an open, safe, trusted, and accountable internet”, the government had published the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, under the IT Act.
So why this jump? Are we being more vigilant? Or is freedom of speech being abused? The answer is simple. Freedom of speech cannot be the reason to thwart all over someone else’s right to life. Our society is driven by social influence. Be it someone selling you a product, a politician trying to get your vote or a YouTube influencer hoping to get your like on his video; your engagement is key. It is your attention they want. And sometimes, the way to get this attention is not always right. Hence the need for policing.
The solution is in the need for balance. India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises. It is critical that we come together to make this happen. As writers. Brand owners. Marketing executives. Reporters and journalists. You and me.
So, a question to you is this – what is the role of influencers? Where do they stand? I shall discuss the same in my next blog.