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Conflicts and a Settings Change for Social Media

Context

The Russia-Ukraine conflict in recent times has reignited the debate around the role of Social media during the times of Conflicts around the world.

Relevance

GS-II: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability, E-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; Citizens Charters, Transparency & Accountability and institutional and other measures.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Role of Social Media during Conflicts
  • Issues with Social Media during Conflicts
  • India’s role
  • Way Forward

Role of Social Media during Conflicts

Social media in the digital world has become a tool for information dissemination at faster pace and to a larger mass. Wars and Conflicts have engulfed the Cyberspace in the past and spillover effect has been observed on the Social Media.

Various roles that the Social Media plays are:

  • Sharing of information and story of both sides involved in a conflict. For Example, huge support for Ukraine has erupted over Social Media.
  • As a platform to raise funds, seek help; share the sufferings and the pain across the world. For Example, Twitter was flooded with calls for help amid the crisis in Ukraine.
  • Used as a tool for communication when conventional methods have failed.
  • Information Warfare has come into the picture with increasing use of social media.

Issues with Social Media during Conflicts

Despite the various advantages that Social Media provides, it is riddled with issues and various shortcomings on many ends. These are:

  • Social Media Platforms have stuck to “Tech Neutrality” which has helped them circumvent the responsibility of making decisions.
  • Lack of clarity among the corporate that run these Social Media Platforms have limited the response of Social Media Platforms to the challenges posed by the conflicts.
  • Existence of Ad-Hoc responses which help the corporations shrug off their responsibilities.
  • Fringe Elements use Social Media Platforms to further their Extremist agendas.
  • Lack of Staff and technology to deal with misinformation and nefarious content.
  • Lack of an International Law dealing with the various issues that arise with respect to Social Media.

India and its role

India being one of the largest user base for Social Media Platforms which still has immense potential can bring sweeping changes and initiatives for better use of Social Media during Conflicts. India can play an active role because:

  • India favours a rule-based order. Any initiative by it will make its stocks rise in the International Community.
  • India is a huge market with tremendous potential and hence can’t be ignored by the corporations.
  • India’s bid at the UN and other organizations will be strengthened.
  • India has brought domestic regulations in the form of Information Technology Rules, 2021 and the upcoming Data Protection Bill which further makes its case strong in the International Community where it can lead by example.

Way Forward

Transparency and Accountability needs to be ensured even more during the tough times of the conflict. In order to do that a rule-based polity governing the Social Media is essential. Overwhelming Information Warfare staging itself on Social media does not bode well either for people or institutions. The Global Community must come together to address the challenges making sure that the regulatory mechanisms do not infringe upon the rights accorded in a democracy.

Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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