The global rise of social media over the last two decades has been one of the most revolutionary manifestations of the digital computing era. It has enabled instant trans-continental communications, sharing and expression of ideas, providing a myriad of platforms for valuable discussions. With the tremendous proliferation of smartphones or internet-enabled mobile devices, social media has surpassed television to become the main source of infotainment. Being a social media influencer, I believe that as this innovative industry grows rapidly, we need to devise specific cyber laws and awareness campaigns, to put the responsibility on users, to ensure the safety, respect and wellbeing of other users on any digital platform. This will provide optimum freedom to our creative youth.
Today, over 60% of US citizens get their news from social media sites. Over one billion tweets about the US presidential election were recorded while the presidential race was discussed on Facebook by 128 million accounts. These technologies have thus impacted all aspects of life, including education, economy, healthcare, politics, etc. The performance and productivity of individuals has been significantly enhanced by instant access to a world of applications and solutions that help you achieve more, quickly and easily.
However, there is a need to regulate these fascinating digital facilities, to ensure the privacy and security of users and to safeguard the classified data of business enterprises. Policymakers must ensure the dignity of individuals and protect the social values in each community. Airing vulgar or derogatory content must be prohibited, with strict penalties for violators. Registration and verifiable identification of participants is essential to minimise anonymity to curb hate speech, fake news, insults, sabotage or blackmailing.
However, relevant authorities must not act overly stringent about the liberal content shared on these apps by contributors. The citizens must be given a fair amount of freedom to express their thoughts and display their creativity. Unfortunately, due to some malicious activities of a few social media participants, the government is considering a ban on some highly beneficial apps. It would surely be an excessively harsh reaction to the misbehaviour of a few individuals, if the whole nation is deprived of their right to share their creativity through global connectivity. Any irrational decision would give a major setback to Pakistan’s digital progress. The only sustainable solution lies in educating the masses and creating awareness about the negative impact of misusing technology.
The regulators must consider that these popular social media apps already have comprehensive policies, detection mechanisms and vigilance teams to check and proactively eliminate any inappropriate or harmful misinformation. In second half of 2019, TikTok removed 3,728,162 violating user videos from Pakistan — one of the largest volumes of removed videos in a country. This app is also the leading platform for generating and sharing short videoclips. Specific ‘Community Guidelines’ for its Pakistani users have also been issued, to lead their creative efforts towards productive, entertaining and decent content.
The most popular platforms in the world like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube, promise complete transparency with security to empower the masses by amplifying their voices, organising virtual communities and minimising the cost of international interactions. By using these apps, citizens can remain in sync with global knowledge and developments to ensure continuous improvements in their quality of life. Over the years, Pakistan has nurtured numerous social media celebrities, travel vloggers and influencers who enjoy international fame while building a softer image of the country globally and generating healthy revenues for the economy.
Therefore, social networking is creating countless opportunities for creative expression and sharing valuable ideas for positive inspiration and to influence people. Progressive nations have optimised the role of such applications to achieve socioeconomic prosperity while they are also deploying e-governance technologies to reach out and deliver better services to their populations.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2020.