The unprecedented exodus of people from the northeast (in particular, state of Assam), abetted by hate messages, has opened the debate about issues related to internet freedom and content regulation. India, which is looking into communal elements in using morphed images on internet, has blocked over 250 websites for spreading the online campaign of hatred. SMS, Twitter and Facebook are considered to be the biggest culprits fueling this exodus.
Government which is desperately trying to curb the violence and mass exodus is running around with their heads cut-off. They have no clue how to handle this and whom to blame for this?
Given the past track record, government has come down hard on social media platforms to remove this content and of course, blame Pakistan!
We realize the immense pain and suffering caused to large section of our population due to this. But, we have few points that government of India should sit up and listen to –
1) Social media platforms are here to stay – 100 years back, it was newspaper that threatened to destabilize the British Raj, then came Radio and TV. Popular mass communication mediums don’t die, they just change shape!
2) Listen and Manage – In TV/Newspaper, you can hire and partner with influential journalist to make them aware of the facts and hopefully, shape the conversation. You can do the same here! And there is technology available to help you do that.
3) Identify the culprits – If someone is the cause of creating such mass hysteria, they can be identified easily and stopped within few hours time vs. taking few weeks to wake up.
4) Be extremely cautious – I will really ask you to be cautious that technology should not be misused to curb the fundamental rights provided by the constitution. We have the right to express our views on black money and issues that matter to us – they cannot be taken that away under the pretext of national security.
Instead of being threatened by social media platforms, look for clues on how you can take pre-emptive action and shape a constructive conversation.
Do you have other suggestions as to how Government of India should react to such a situation?