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Social media — true freedom or unbridled curse?

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The hazard of false information is not only that people will believe it. Most false content, when shared by respectable individuals, lends a huge impact on their mass followers, and those followers in turn spread this information without weighing it in. Soon, information becomes the hot topic of the day and may even be picked up by the electronic media.

In the last two decades, social media has gained significance in the global societies promising access; connecting those far with news and information in the wink of the eye. However, Qatar-based news channel admits, “Broadcast media is accused of encouraging sensationalism for ratings instead of good reporting.”

Trolling, cyber bullying and identity theft is common practice in current times, sharing and posting false information without an accurate source is another practice by well-educated and so called public figures. Had you ever thought how false information could kill you? The unforgettable Mashal Khan lynching tragedy is still fresh in Pakistan’s collective memory. It clearly denotes the impact of untrue information. The content shared with the mob at the Bacha Khan University was enough to declare him guilty.

Mashal had claimed that his Facebook account had been hacked. But those online aren’t necessarily educated to be able to decipher between fair news and false. Hence the mob that lynched the young Mashal never bothered to investigate the truth behind the inciting social media content.

Mobile Internet dis-connectivity in FATA: A few days ago a web magazine called ProPakistani tweeted about Pakistani mobile internet subscriber statistics. In response — due to lack of technical understanding and using weak sources — a local organization founder and lawyer tweeted “Please exclude #FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) ki population since 3G/4G is shut down there since a year.” Later to confirm the source on dis-connectivity in FATA they added the source in the online conversation to answer. The source claimed that the mobile internet services were suspended in all of FATA since 12th June 2016. Various sources claimed that basic mobile communication services were down in most of the area, let alone 3G/4G coverage.

The sources claim was wrong, this was only true for the Landi Kotal valley and not for the whole of FATA.

Information like that only misguides common citizens about FATA. This is not only about internet connectivity but some other untrue information misrepresents FATA as being unstable and insecure.

Another recent video about a police raid on a dance party in Islamabad went viral on social media and online users were commenting in a hostile manner. Later News Lens Pakistan found that the video shared on social media was actually from a country in the Middle East and was a few months old.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Some quarters feel that the future of social media is in trouble and that cyber and media laws need to be more stringent. Also, some say it is necessary for online users to think before posting What’s on Your Mind? on your wall because it may affect others adversely.

NewsroomPakistan adds: Ostensibly informed and enlightened citizens however say more laws, stringent laws and their enforcement will curb the very purpose of the internet and social media — freedom of expression and association. Freedom cannot have if’s and butts, otherwise it would not be FREEDOM! So, restraint and politeness must come from the users themselves, but there is no getting over the fact that social media will be misused. Hence news websites, newspapers and television remain the more authentic media for news and views because of editorial control. —Newslens.pk


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