Social Media – More of a blight than a blessing

By : | Umm e Tehniyat |

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The digital world experienced spectacular growth over the past few years with number of users increasing remarkably. The internet and social media has been available in Pakistan since 1992 and has seen exponential growth ever since. The benefits of internet usage are far outreaching and cannot be denied, but the benefits can only be enjoyed if the user has the required education and competence to comprehend the appropriate use. According to Mark Mc Kinnon: “Technology and social media have brought power back to people”, ironically the same power is misused by most of the people. Out of 31 million social media users in Pakistan, only 1% may are engaged in constructive activity [1]. The rest are wasting their time on useless, immoral and destructive activities such as Terrorism, extremism, spreading of anti-Islam, anti-Pakistan and/or blasphemous content.

Most users especially bloggers and social media activist misuse the concept of freedom of speech. They upload/share any type of material on social networking sites without understanding its implications. Facebook groups such as Mochi and Bhensa are relevant examples in this regard. The admin of the pages uploaded blasphemous content on their pages, it is important to note that blasphemy is legally punishable by death in Pakistan.

Regrettably Social media is used by most to spread unauthorized news/content which gain a greater reach due to social media’s viral culture. Just a click and any unauthentic/negative message can spread among millions of people in fraction of a second. Not only Government of Pakistan but many other countries are working on making laws to increase email and social network surveillance. The recent blockade on all social networks and media in Pakistan during the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) protest can be justified because unnecessary viral news leads horror and anguish in the society.

In today’s world technology and digital component is connected to every crime which implies that government and intelligence agencies need easy access to data in order to cope up with the intercontinental criminals, sexual predators, fraudsters, and Terrorists. Today’s criminals are continuously transforming their methods of crime along with the evolving technology. Christopher Wray; director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gave his views in the International conference on Cyber Security, Newyork 2018. He emphasized that: “FBI supports information security measures, including strong encryption. But information security programs need to be thoughtfully designed so they don’t undermine the lawful tools that are required to keep the country safe” [3].

The Terrorist/Extremist groups take advantage of different features of social media such as unregulated access, free Wi-Fi, unrecognizability, location independence, greater reach in lesser time and low cost of entry. These features are utilized to recruit young individuals by exploiting their emotions. The extremist groups target young individuals by exploiting sentiments of injustice, unequal distribution of income, and lack of laws for the rich, corruption by government officials and humiliation for the poor.

The social media helps these groups to maintain secrecy as they finance, recruit, train and communicate online. The famous case of Noreen Laghari MBBS Student in Hyderabad is well known to everyone. She was recruited and radicalized by ISIS online and was arrested a day before the planned attack on Easter [4]. In 2016 a Terrorist group radicalized a group of engineering students to abduct Shahbaz Taseer (son of former governor of Punjab) [5]. Extremist organization utilize the social media for Data mining/open source intelligence. Effective utilization of open source intelligence helps them to develop a list of present and potential supporters and recruits.

Freedom without boundaries is not a good sign in any aspect, so is the case in social media. The menace of social media usage has embedded in our lives to such an extent that people of all age groups seem involved in exposing themselves to the world without even thinking about the negative implications that can occur. The case of Naila Rind a Sindh university student who hanged herself to death in 2017 is a clear example of how non-monitored social media usage can prove fatal for the youth. She decided to quit her precious life due to blackmailing by a man who became her friend through Facebook. There is a dire need to monitor the social media usage at individual, social and government level because freedom of usage without any regulations and control leads to devastating effects.

Christian Lous Lange rightly said: “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. Unfortunately in Pakistan, the un-regulated access of internet is mostly misused. According to the Ministry of Interior, there are total 64 banned outfits in Pakistan out of which 41 are active on Facebook, they are running approximately over 700 Facebook pages/groups [6]. They utilize the Facebook groups to glorify their existing leaders and to spread negative propaganda among the masses [7].  A study by Dawn News group revealed that most user profiles linked to banned outfits on Facebook openly support sectarian and extremist ideology [8].

There is a need to establish laws to regulate the use of social media. Ministries need to collaborate with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and create rules and regulations. Ex Interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan gave orders to officials to carry out measures which prevent misuse of internet and social networking sites. He stated: “It seems that social media is working under freedom to lie rather than freedom of expression” [9]. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is trying its best to enact new bills that help to censor, threaten internet users from misuse of internet. PTA even proposed to monitor internet usage of every individual but failed to apply as such bills because of public opposition.

The dilemma of open access in cyberspace put countries such as Pakistan into an extremely paradoxical situation in which they have to maintain a balance between free availability of internet and yet control the misuse of it. The Government of Pakistan, the regulatory bodies and the judiciary needs to collaborate and come up with a strategy to provide access to internet and social networking sites without compromising on the security and fundamental values of the country.

 

The author is Masters in Business Administration from NUST Business School. She is a freelance writer based in Islamabad. Her writings mostly focus on social, political and defense domain. She can be reached at ummetehniyat@gmail.com

 

 

Bibliography

  1. Kemp, Simon. “Digital in 2017: Global Overview.” 24 Jan 2017. wearesocial.com. 8 Jan 2018. <https://wearesocial.com/special-reports/digital-in-2017-global-overview>.
  2. BBC News. Pakistan Blogger Asim Saeed says he was tortured. 25 Oct 2017.bbc.com.17 Jan 2018 <www.bbc.com/nws/world-asia-41662595>.
  3. Raising our Game: Cyber Security in an Age of Digital Transformation. 9 Jan 2018. www.fbi.gov. 18 Jan 2018. <www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/raising-our-game-cyber=security-in-an-age-of-digital-transformation>.
  4. Naeem, A. “Terror suspect arrested in Lahore identified as missing MBBS student Noreen.” 16 Apr 2017. geo.tv. 4 Jan 2018. <https://www.geo.tv/latest/138261-Girl-arrested-in-Lahore-encounter-an-MBBS-student-went-missing-from-Hyderabad>.
  5. Khanzada, S. “UET graduate-led group kidnapped Shahbaz Taseer.” 10 March March 10, 2016. thenews.com. 9 Jan 2018. <https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/104191-UET-graduate-led-group-kidnapped-Shahbaz-Taseer>.
  6. Khan, Asad Ullah. “Use of Internet and Banned Outfits in Pakistan.” 30 June 2017. http://issi.org.pk. 4 Jan 2017 <http://issi.org.pk/wp-content /uploads/ 2017/ 06/ IB_ Asad _ June_30_2017.pdf >.
  7. Khanzada, S. “UET graduate-led group kidnapped Shahbaz Taseer.” 10 March March 10, 2016. thenews.com. 9 Jan 2018. <https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/104191-UET-graduate-led-group-kidnapped-Shahbaz-Taseer>.
  8. Haque, J. and Bashir,O. “Banned outfits in Pakistan operate openly on Facebook.” 14 Sep 2017. dawn.com. 5 Jan 2018. <https://www.dawn.com/news/1335561>.

Samaa. “Nisar annoyed by Facebook’s refusal to share information.” 8 March 2017. www.samaa.tv. 8 Jan 2018 <https://www.samaa.tv/pakistan/2017/03/nisar-annoyed-by-facebooks-refusal-to-share-information/

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