Elon Musk announced that Twitter will charge 8 dollars per month to verify users’ accounts, claiming that the plan would solve the platform’s issues with bots and trolls while creating a new revenue stream for the company. The new plan’s pricing will be adjusted in proportion to purchasing power parity. Twitter’s ‘Blue Tick’ or verified subscribers will also receive priority placement in replies, mentions and search. Verified accounts will be able to post long video and audio. Musk is also said to be working on overhaul of various other policies of Social Media platform Twitter.
Rise of Social Media in recent decade:
- The phenomenal rise of social media (SM) platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others is proving to be a double-edged sword in the functioning of democracies.
- On the one hand, it has democratised access to information. On the other hand, it has concentrated power over that information with a handful of private companies, their billionaire owners, and certain ideologically committed activist groups.
- Billions of netizens around the world now feel empowered to bypass traditional curators of information, such as journalists and editors, in searching for their choice of content.
- They have also become creators and disseminators of content, not just consumers of it.
- This is further accentuated by tech platforms directing more content at people similar to what they have already seen, thus creating echo chambers of like-minded groups.
- On the other hand, misinformation on social media can alter public opinion for the worse and create a sense of panic and restlessness among the public.
- Social media is a platform which is highly liberal and it allows common citizens to put forward their views regarding a policy, act or ordinance.
- Social media allows people to directly communicate with their leaders and vice versa.
- The public opinion is amplified on social media, making democracy more transparent and even stronger.
- WhatsApp has about 400 million active Indian users (about four times that in the US where it is headquartered); about 300 million Facebook users are active in India (about 100 million more than the US); about 250 million YouTube users in India (about 50 million more than the US).
- With such a large market share, these significant data fiduciaries have an obligation to abide by the law of the land, in the interest of the data subjects in India at large.
- The recent stand taken by some of the data fiduciaries indicates that they are using their significant market power to defy rules of the land in which they operate.
- While a democratic country such as India always has legal recourse and the judiciary to oversee undue exercise of power by the State, this should not be taken as the first step by the data fiduciaries, as has been recently done.
Challenges before the government:
- Too stringent a policy of policing social media could violate the individual’s right to privacy.
- It’s not easy to force Facebook Inc., the owner of WhatsApp, to give up on the app’s unique selling proposition to the user of complete end-to-end confidentiality.
- Technology has its own benefits, especially social media with wide outreach. In the midst of a pandemic, there was WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter for SOS calls.
- In prolonged periods of lockdown in the current era, social media has given respite to people from mental distress.
- There can be no dispute that we need social media to enable us to emerge out of this crisis; to come to terms with whatever losses we have had to face due to the pandemic, and to connect with peers.
- The government should regulate these social media platforms, but not to the extent that it is difficult for them to do business in India.
- As India is not a surveillance state, there must not be any illegal or unconstitutional check on the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression which are the fundamental rights of every citizen.
- Social media awareness is needed which may enable citizens to be in a position to distinguish between truth and falsehood – and to know when democratic processes are being manipulated.
- There must be a balance as the Constitutions itself has provided several limitations on one’s right to speech and expression.
- Social Media Platforms can provide safeguards in the event that democratic processes are being intentionally disrupted or harmful falsehoods are spreading, it can help people find out what is true.