By Gulraj Bedi:
In my opinion, politics is more of a mind game than anything else. The supporters and well-wishers of almost all the political parties have this habit of flooding social media circles with scandalous, fake and malicious posts in order to frame rival parties. In response, those framed claim such charges to be scandalous misinformation if not anything else. I, in all fairness, would like to believe that this process makes the masses realise that messages posted on various social media platforms cannot be trusted without verifying the facts and figures.
In the absence of reliable social media messages and campaigns, the Indian democratic setup is at risk. Unreliable messages posted over social media platforms may trigger a massive and destructive misinformation campaigns. A misinformation campaign has enough power to overthrow the Indian democratic setup. Technology is a powerful tool. It possesses the power to make or break a person, no matter how powerful and formidable. Just one fake frivolous tweet and the entire reputation and stature of a person goes all the way down into the dumps.
It goes without saying that businesses, skills and jobs would change with a change in technology. With physical markets and showrooms facing stiff competition from e-commerce portals like Flipkart and Amazon, I can afford to say that traditional business models are certainly in for a complete makeover. A vast majority of the general public understands that technology has transformed the way masses interact, but when it comes to politics, people behave as if technology does not matter.
I’d like to give an example: Politicians who make use of commercial radio in order to communicate their messages and opinions enjoy an upper hand over those who don’t. Even when elections were held in India’s national capital Delhi, people could hear Mr. Kejriwal on their radio sets. Using the radio might seem a bit outdated, but speaking on the radio helped Mr. Kejriwal to put his thoughts across to all the sections of the society. Radio still has maximum penetration in India.
Let us take a look at yet another example: The general elections held in the year 2014 saw Narendra Modi and BJP using social media in order to mobilise the youth. The brand Modi used social media to organise events, make more decentralised the local choice of leaders to address issues at different individual pit stops. In politics, the next battlefront is social media.
The impact of social media was evident in the recently concluded JNU controversy, where Kanhaiya Kumar came under the scanner for allegedly shouting anti-national slogans. Half of India is convinced that Kanhaiya led the student community in shouting anti-national slogans. Fake videos and fake commentaries spread like wildfire on various social media platforms and played a huge role in this particular piece of propaganda. It really helped other forms of media. Television news channels, too, allegedly aired doctored videos and wreaked havoc courtesy of misinformation.
A taste of the mischief social media is capable of was witnessed in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Pictures of dead bodies lined up in long and orderly rows were circulated over WhatsApp to spread rage and hatred. The prosperous jats of western Uttar Pradesh had access to some of best smartphones that could support WhatsApp. The population of smartphone users has grown by leaps and bounds. Smartphone prices have been falling quite sharply and the penetration of smartphones in India has seen a significant rise over the past couple of years. The trend is likely to continue in the future as well.
The Rs. 500/month cost of telephony that Reliance introduced way back in 2003 is believed by many to be a turning point in India’s telecom history. Strategies similar to this might be inevitable. Well, that is what I would like to believe. In China, the penetration of smartphones went up from just 20% to a whopping 80% in a couple of years, said the head of Lenovo while in India. In the years to come, a vast majority of Indian voters would have access to smartphones and broadband connections. Smartphone users are believed to use a wide variety of social media apps.
Social media is nothing less than a revolution. It has the power to either make or break a person. These apps’ potential for abuse happens to be immense. How to prevent happens to be a challenge for all of us. Well, there’s no point in waiting for a flood of malicious images and videos to suffuse social media and then going on a clarification spree. The right time to act is now….