Social Media Day 2021: Celebrating platforms that brought all voices together while remembering the risks
On Tuesday, the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police booked micro-blogging site Twitter after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) accused it of allowing child pornography to be posted online. Based on allegations made by the child rights body, Twitter was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Information Technology (IT) Act.
It must be noted that earlier this month, Twitter lost legal immunity for content posted by users, after it failed to comply with the new digital rules. Twitter had earlier argued that the new IT rules of the government were against the Constitution of India.
Interestingly, the case was filed ahead of Social Media Day, which is celebrated every year on June 30. The first Social Media Day was celebrated by the famous website Mashable on 30 June 2010, with the intention of emphasising the impact of social media and its pivotal role in global communication.
What started with Sixdegrees in 1997 has now expanded to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and more. A few taps on a screen and information can be shared for public consumption, without any geographical boundaries restricting dissemination. The latest name added to these social media giants seems to be Clubhouse. A 'drop-in audio chat', Clubhouse is an invitation-only social media app where users can communicate in voice chat rooms with thousands of people at once.
While Clubhouse seems to be a very public phone call and has just ventured into the world of social media, it also seems to be controversy's favourite child. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on June 12, leaked an audio clip of Congress leader Digvijay Singh speaking about the abrogation of Article 370 and raked up a storm. Referencing the recent Congress Toolkit row, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had said, "It is quite possible that what Digvijaya Singh has said in Clubhouse chat must have been stage-managed. Digvijaya Singh or a senior Congress leader must have instructed the Pakistani journalist to ask such a question. " Singh responded to the allegations with a tweet and lodged a police complaint against Clubhouse.
Barely a few months old, Clubhouse has already been used as a political tool. The incident exposes the vulnerability of social media users while raising pertinent and disturbing questions about the integrity of these platforms. In the past, Facebook and other social media apps, have been accused of being political mouthpieces and enablers of propaganda.
While in this case, Clubhouse was used to further political rivalry, there have been instances in the past where photographs and names of sexual abuse survivors have been floated online. Hashtags harassing people have been trended online and inappropriate messages have been sent to users. In the Delhi Locker Room case as well, a secure space for offenders was created - where they could broadcast their fantasies, objectify men and women, and get away with it. The twists in the case proved how social media can be tactfully used to distort facts and give them a sense of reality.
A famous and recent example of social media trials was the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. While the television media vilified the late actor's girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, toxic hashtags defaming her were floated online. Not only this, but rape and death threats were sent to Chakraborty and her family members through social media. While on one hand, people denigrated Chakraborty and launched a witch hunt against her on social media, there were people who supported her and sent her love. Cases like these prove that social media is a double-edged sword.
While these platforms can be used to distort facts, they can also raise awareness and encourage a sense of community among users. The #MeToo movement that started across the world and also reached India mirrors the power of social media. Women from all walks of life took to their social media accounts and spoke out about sexual harassment and abuse they had faced in their lives. The harrowing accounts of these women soon turned into court cases that exposed the gruesome reality of our society, all thanks to social media.
With its boons and its banes, social media continues to be a necessity. A thread that binds the world together in an ever-changing world, social media is like our society - it embodies the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the fake and the real. As the world celebrates the glory of social media, we must vow to use it as a fundamental tool, not as a lethal weapon.