Wel­come the Era of Min­is­te­rial Tweets

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

It is by no means gim­mickry any more to sug­gest that a good mea­sure of pub­lic opin­ion can be had through pe­rusal of de­bates on so­cial me­dia plat­forms. Granted, ac­cess to such me­dia is yet con­fined to a sec­tion of people in In­dia — but the size of that sec­tion would be such that it would make lit­tle sense to ig­nore it. Thus, Naren­dra Modi’s di­rec­tive to his min­is­ters to open Twit­ter ac­counts and Face­book pages as a means of en­hanc­ing pub­lic out­reach is a smart move, en­hanc­ing the new Prime Min­is­ter’s claims of a new era of trans­parency and gov­er­nance. So­cial me­dia had al­ready ar­rived, in­deed, in some cases even seemed to be set­ting the agenda on a num­ber of is­sues, and this is of­fi­cial ac­knowl­edge­ment of that fact and an at­tempt to har­ness the pos­i­tives that come with it. There are many people quite will­ing to of­fer their opin­ions, for what­ever they are worth, given the chance. But you also need to be pre­pared for se­ri­ous flak: things can get pretty nasty on­line. That, ac­tu­ally brings up an im­por­tant is­sue re­lat­ing to such new me­dia: where to draw the line of the law on of­fen­sive speech and free­dom of ex­pres­sion. It seems plain ridicu­lous to go af­ter people — as there have been many cases in In­dia lately — for some­thing said on Twit­ter or Face­book. It would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the state to be­have as if the world were about to end and slap a dra­co­nian read­ing of the law on some­one for a com­ment or two. Bar­ring some­thing di­rectly im­pli­cated in pro­mot­ing vi­o­lence, which it­self can be a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion, what sense does it make to hound people for ex­press­ing their opin­ions on me­dia hailed as a democratis­ing force? In­stead, ig­nor­ing the use­less and sift­ing out the valu­able, such as sug­ges­tions on gov­er­nance as en­vis­aged by Modi, would be a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive.

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