Spreading hatred on social media is not freedom of expression

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Published on January 31, 2023
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Hiren Pandit

Freedom to spread racial hatred on social media is not freedom of expression by any means. Recently in Geneva, 25 UN human rights experts said this in a joint statement. In the statement, experts said that the use of racist words has increased significantly since the recent acquisition of Twitter. Through this hatred is being spread against the people of Africa. A strong accountability system is needed through social media in this regard.

In the first days of Twitter's acquisition, especially in the first 12 hours of acquisition, the use of hateful and racist words increased almost 500 times than before, the United Nations experts said in a statement citing the report of Rutgers University's 'Network Contagion Research Institute. UN experts said Twitter called the hate campaign a mockery, saying there was no room for hatred. But the hatred spewed against people of African descent is of great concern and it demands a human rights-centered response.

The statement said, not only on Twitter but also on other social media platforms such as Meta, such hate speech is not a concern. Many who oppose hate speech claim that there is a gap in social media policy commitments and implementation, particularly in Facebook's approval of electoral disinformation, discussion of conspiracy theories, and inflammatory advertising. Recent studies by Global Witness and Sumofus show that Meta cannot block certain ads.

UN experts said that in the wake of many complaints, Meta took the initiative to launch an important mechanism such as the Monitoring Board in 2020. It may take a long time to see the effectiveness of this board. Social media requires continued commitment at the highest level to review and revise its processes to address the incitement of racial hatred online. UN experts who gave statements included the president and members of the UN Working Group on African Descent, Business, Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.

It is important to bring social media within the rules

It is now a reality that in our country as well, social media has gained immense popularity in the contemporary world. On the one hand, its excessive practical importance, on the other hand, the level of abuse is creating an unwanted wall of ugliness-skepticism-fear in the entire society. At the crossroads of bad culture, false baseless propaganda of politics-religion-economy-general social phenomena, communalism, malice, intolerance, violence, conflict, and separation are becoming obstacles in the smooth flow of life.

The professional-intellectual-civilian personalities with various negative statements are creating an anarchic situation. This social conflict prolongs unbearable suffering in the lives of the masses. It is very important to analyze how much the deviation of the creative-thinking-human-moral character of the young society under the cover of modern information technology will play a role in building a normal society in the future.

There is no room for doubt that the beautiful woman will fall into the gulf of deep darkness if she fails to understand the different forms of social media dependency which is taking a different form of the horrible reality that social communication dependency is taking away from the rich textbook- biographical knowledge and rational reading of world-renowned personalities.

In 2010, the famous British writer Howard Jacobson, who won the Booker Prize, expressed fear, "Facebook-Twitter will make children imprudent in 20 years." Children of the future generation will be illiterate due to the dominance of various social media including Facebook, and Twitter. With the use of smartphones and a large number of social media including Facebook, and Twitter, the communication method of the young generation is changing dramatically and because of all this, they are losing the habit of reading books. According to criminologist experts, social media has recently become our daily companion.

This medium is affecting our human qualities. Many are getting involved in crimes like money laundering, aggressive games, and rape. Many are mentally unstable. Due to its excessive use, the risk of various diseases including anger-anger-depression-depression-loneliness-frustration-heart disease is increasing. According to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is concerned about the misuse of social media, 'social media is not for wasting time. It can be really beneficial if used properly. But if you just sit here and digest whatever is shown, then it won't happen.'

In recent times, some people said to be based abroad have started cyber warfare to create unrest in the country. According to the report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented at the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, besides making positive contributions, many expatriate and migrant Bangladeshis are engaged in propaganda against Bangladesh. The image of Bangladesh is being questioned due to their frequent presence and dissemination of anti-national objectionable comments and speeches in various media including social media.

Due to the various legal complexities of the countries where they are staying, it is often difficult to take action against them. The list of terrorists engaged in these heinous activities has already been sent to the concerned Bangladesh Missions. Bangladesh embassies will apply to the respective governments to bring them under the law of those countries and bring them to justice.

According to sources published in the media, 70 percent of the world's Internet users are connected to social media, of which almost 90 percent are young people. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype etc. are the most popular social media in Bangladesh. 80 percent of internet users in Bangladesh have Facebook accounts and a large portion of them are teenagers.

According to the survey results of various domestic and international organizations, a significant number of young men and women are suffering from deviant-mental problems due to misuse of social media-losing attention to studies-giving up sports, and busying themselves with electronic devices day and night. This social communication has been considered as a means of various dimension crimes including providing false information-hate-hate, sex and obscenity-character assassination-currency and human trafficking-gambling-cyber violence.

The rise of crime on social media has resulted in many sites like YouTube and Facebook taking steps to prevent the first exposure of content, including quick removal of unacceptable and harmful content, as a result of law enforcement around the world. YouTube and Facebook authorities regularly publish information on removing inappropriate content.

According to the Google-owned video-sharing site, they removed 8.8 million videos, 3.3 million harmful channels and 517 million unacceptable comments between July and September 2020. Facebook authorities claim that they have removed 30 million harmful content during the mentioned period, but due to the abundance of unacceptable and harmful content, it is not possible for the company alone to prevent it. It is increasing day by day despite hundreds of efforts by regulatory companies.

It has also been proposed to take some conditional registration from BTRC for every website, social media and online entertainment platform operating in Bangladesh. One of the conditions is that any website and social media operating in the country must have its office in Bangladesh. NOC from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is mandatory for websites that have news-curated content-film-web series.

Various countries around the world are also trying to regulate social media based on legal frameworks. The German government enacted the NetzDG in 2018 to establish a system for social media companies to review complaints about objectionable content published on their sites—remove content within 24 hours of publication—update reports every six months on the companies' performance, according to an analysis of media data. Disclosure is mandated.

According to the Social Media Regulation Act 2021 in India, the Indian government can request Facebook-Twitter-WhatsApp and other media authorities to delete a user's post and reveal the user's identity. Social media regulation was enacted in Australia in 2019, punishing financial and technology executives with up to 10 percent of the companies' global turnover for publishing hateful and violent content.

Laws that took effect in November 2021 give Russia the power to shut down global web connections in an emergency, and Russia's data law allows social media companies to store data about Russians only on internal servers in the country. The Government of Canada's Social Media Regulation Act criminalizes child pornography, hate speech and the publication of intimate images without consent, allowing police to take direct action against social platforms and those who post such comments.

The China Cyberspace Administration regularly shuts down various websites and removes harmful mobile apps, including gambling. Hundreds of thousands of cyber police in the country are tasked with regularly monitoring social media platforms and sensitive screen messages.

Basically, according to the scriptures of every religion, the infiltration of distorted thoughts and ideas by axing at the root of the traditional customs-sociology-truth-beautiful-welfare-joy-based culture-tradition is facing a profound challenge to social media. Now is the time to think about what the generation is going to get in the equation of lies-deceit-fraud-incoherence.

Any kind of anti-social behavior like some self-indulgent ignorant drug addicts must be avoided. Without delay, thinking about the logical future of this planet called Earth and formulating strategies to take visible steps, implementing adequate measures to prevent and control the arising problems is the urgent demand of the time. Be careful using social media.

Nowadays, business is being conducted around this medium. The door of e-commerce has opened. Various knowledge-science and art-literature practice organizations are being developed around this social media. In essence, there is no aspect of life where social media does not have an impact. In the last decade, a new horizon has started in the IT sector in Bangladesh. As a result, we now have unprecedented growth in communication. Proper use of this communication medium can play an important role in our personal and national development. Therefore, it is very important to review the positive and negative aspects of social media. This is because social media use is making us sociable or antisocial is an important question. The answer to this question may vary from person to person.

Everything in the world has both positive and negative aspects. But what matters most is how we embrace the positive aspects of anything and use them. Nowadays, thanks to this social media, a great medium of business has started. In this mechanized busy life, many people cannot go to shops and markets to buy their daily necessities. E-commerce has become a light of hope in their busy life. Social media is the survival method of various reputed business organizations or small businessmen so that they can promote their salable products to buyers. To reap the benefits of this e-commerce, many unemployed youths are currently turning to entrepreneurship. As a result, many people are now turning to online businesses and are seeing success.

It is important for us to accept the fact that the excessive use of social media is causing negative changes in our real life and is creating a huge barrier to connecting with our family members, relatives and friends. It's best to sit up front and talk to anyone. But due to the excessive addiction to social media, we are more comfortable exchanging thoughts virtually. But the reality is that our dependence on technology is constantly pushing us away from real life and making us mechanized.

Writer: Researcher and a columnist

Courtesy: The Asian Age