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Social Media - A powerful weapon for Modern India

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Social media is a game changer that has followed the logical development of the Internet. If the web was an equaliser in spreading knowledge beyond the confines of those in possession, then access to social media platforms spreads information faster than conventional media is capable of. Traditional media, be it state or privately owned, cannot match social media platforms for the speed of disbursement. It is also a fact that much of what goes as information through social media may lack credibility, but its distribution cannot be stopped. At least not in a free democratic country. And that is where the catch lies in terms of the utility of social media.

It is widely believed that social media helped carry the various Arab revolts that shook the established authorities out of their slumber. Even the most reticent of regimes, like Saudi Arabia, felt the pressure created by social media platforms. Egypt of course had a regime change that is credited to the power of social media. Hosni Mubarak seemed unshakeable, especially with the military firmly on his side. But they didn’t reckon with the power of the people united by common messaging platforms. Crowds were drawn together by the messages carried by various mobile networks. And the messages called for a change that became a reality. The same was largely true for the 2014 General Election in India. Social media played a vital role, well into the villages of the country. It can be safely said that the election was won and lost in the digital landscape fought over and through social media.

Social media has a unique ability to connect people seamlessly over barriers that are either man-made or geographical. A football fan watching a World Cup match in Brazil was able to communicate instantly with his friend or countrymate seeing the same game on television separated by many time zones. People are now connecting seamlessly over distances unimaginable, across cultures unconnected, through continental separateness and into countries even though they may not be officially communicating. This has never happened before in human history. It is a power that a common citizen anywhere in the world can use to its optimum. Curtailing this power and the freedom that it bestows, comes with a heavy baggage. Increasingly fewer countries are willing to undertake the social and political risks involved in curbing this power. Even though this seamless global connectivity via social media comes with a cost that is unseen, unheard and largely unknown. Which makes this cost doubly dangerous.

Social media leaves a digital footprint that can be used to track the users right into their homes. Now in an ordinary sense this shouldn’t be a worry. But when users are also involved in the implementation of national security programmes then there is enough reason to be alarmed. There are certain liabilities in the use of social media platforms and they impact on cyber security measures that a government must ensure. For starters, all those involved in the national security aspects of governance have to be kept secure from cyber attacks or sabotage through social media platforms. These platforms, while seeming to be harmless and friendly, can in fact be used as a deadly tool against officials in sensitive ministries and departments. Even as their identities can be tracked, their locations traced, inadvertent usage may allow them to be compromised. And that could well prove to be more costly for the country than any other countermeasure.

It is necessary that countermeasures be in place for preventing the misuse of social media platforms. For the honour and responsibility of partaking in the nation’s security apparatus there have to be some compromises on liberties and expression. Government departments have to ensure that social media is accessed only on stand-alone computers. While this directive may have been issued its implementation is still shoddy. This enables hackers and cyber sleuths from other countries an entry into the digital world of the country, thus compromising its security disproportionately. In a first of its kind, the United States of America has named and charged some Chinese officials for cyber espionage. A digital entry has to be prevented first, before worrying about chatter finding its way into foreign hands. Users don’t realise how much they’re revealing and there is no reason that the listener should get to know so much.


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