The Havoc Con­tin­ues

Voice&Data - - EDITORIAL -

I was re­cently asked to be on a TV panel dis­cus­sion. It was not one of those very pop­u­lar chan­nels with a high TRP, but the sub­ject ‘cur­rent trends of so­cial net­work­ing and its fu­ture in In­dia’, is close to my heart. I see a lot of ac­tion on this front, and be­lieve it is one revo­lu­tion that truly in­volved the masses, and that it has huge po­ten­tial to trans­form In­dia – so­cially, eco­nom­i­cally.

Un­for­tu­nately, all my prepa­ra­tions in terms of the data I had col­lected for making some force­ful ar­gu­ments went in vain. The dis­cus­sion vi­o­lently turned to­wards the mis­use of ap­pli­ca­tions like What­sapp and Twit­ter for cre­at­ing communal un­rest and ten­sions. And how it is be­ing mis-used by rapists, black­mail­ers and voyeurs to make the lives of their vic­tims fur­ther mis­er­able. I tried to bring the dis­cus­sion on track, but was over­whelmed.

Later on I was think­ing about the whole thing and re­al­ized, that while on one hand tech­nol­ogy is pro­gress­ing and its reach and use in­creas­ing, on the other its abuse and the scale of its dev­as­tat­ing im­pact is ac­tu­ally grow­ing man­i­fold. I have spo­ken to so many ser­vice providers, tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and in­dus­try gu­rus. And all of them sim­ply ex­press their help­less­ness. The im­pres­sion given is that tech­nol­ogy is ahead of reg­u­la­tors, and noth­ing much can be done. Self reg­u­la­tion and build­ing sen­si­tiv­ity in the so­ci­ety is the so­lu­tion.

The fact is that whether it’s the Ban­ga­lore panic spread against folks from North East In­dia al­most 3 years back which brought the re­gion down for a few days or the most re­cent beef ru­mor mur­der in Dadri, tech­nol­ogy has played havoc. And we con­tinue to be silent spec­ta­tors.

Re­minds me of the floods and drought that In­dia faces year af­ter year, and there seems to be no so­lu­tion. For th­ese nat­u­ral calami­ties you can blame the Gods, but is not the wrath of Face­book and What­sapp our own cre­ation. Will com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments keep twid­dling their thumbs and watch help­lessly if there is bank fraud that is de­tected. We know the speed at which they re­act and take ac­tion to stop the prob­lem and go af­ter the the cul­prits. Is hu­man life and so­cial har­mony of no value com­pared to bank ac­counts or credit card data?

While I missed putting my points across on the TV de­bate that went into a dif­fer­ent track, let me share with you what is hap­pen­ing be­tween so­cial me­dia and the com­mon In­dian. There are al­most 13 crore Face­book users in In­dia; and al­most 10 crore In­di­ans on What­sapp. And I am sure over 99% of th­ese ne­ti­zens are not us­ing it to spread re­li­gious ha­tred or pornog­ra­phy but for shar­ing en­ter­tain­ment, gain­ing knowl­edge, and do­ing busi­ness. Un­be­liev­able stu­dent col­lab­o­ra­tion for school projects is hap­pen­ing here; semi lit­er­ate plumbers and elec­tri­cians are shar­ing de­signs with their clients. And its grow­ing by the day.

But this does not take away ser­vice provider’s and the gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity that th­ese fan­tas­tic tools and plat­forms be­come can­cer­ous.

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