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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A democratization that is more a fallacy      


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs), EU- Digital Services Act (DSA) etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention etc



  • Oscar Wilde:“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation,”
  • Social media platforms regularly manage user content on their website.




Social media:

  • It can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or agency to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content.
  • India is the second-largest online market, behind China.
  • The majority of India’s internet users are mobile phone internet users
  • Common social media platforms:
    • Facebook
    • YouTube
    • WhatsApp
    • Instagram
    • Twitter


How do social media internally regulate content?

  • Complaint redressal mechanism: They have complaint redressal mechanisms for addressing user grievances.
    • For example: Facebook set up the Oversight Board(independent body)which scrutinizes its ‘content moderation’ practices.


How does the government regulate social media?

  • Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021: It mandates platforms to establish a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve user complaints within fixed timelines
  • Amendment in rules(Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs): Comprising government appointees, who will now sit in appeals over the platforms’ grievance redressal decisions.
  • Section 69A of IT Act: Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource.


Benefits of Social media:

  • Democratization of Information
  • Participation of Wider and Heterogeneous Communities
  • Cheap and Easy
  • Countering The Hegemony
  • Bridging The Distance
  • Direct Interaction With Government officials


Impact of social media on freedom of expression:

  • Social media platforms have trumpeted and have ‘democratized self-expression.
  • Social media platforms have facilitated the circumvention of elite and/or authoritarian gatekeeping and have brought new voices into the public sphere.


How does social media influence?

  • Social media molds expressions to fit its own format instead of vice versa.
  • Retweets and likes are binary instruments which leave no room for personal nuance.
  • Memes and emojis constrain articulation to the selection at hand, shaping instead of facilitating self-expression.
  • Social media also forces brevity — due to its format and the larger ecosystem it has spawned


Present challenges:

  • Social media now has millions of users: Existing government control on online speech is unsustainable.
  • Increase in potential harms: With the increasing reach of the Internet, its potential harms have also increased.
    • There is more illegal and harmful content online today.
    • Examples: Disinformation campaigns on social media during COVID-19 and hate speech against the Rohingya in Myanmar
  • Hate speech and Rumors
  • Fake News: There are number of edited images, manipulated videos and fake text messages spreading through social media platforms
  • Online Trolling: Trolling and threatening those who do not agree with their views
  • Women Safety: Women face cyber rape and threats that affect their dignity severely.


Way Forward

  • To Improve user stickiness and engagement, social media platforms have started compensating users for original audiovisual content.
  • While sites such as YouTube allowed individuals to create their own video channels and shared ad-revenue based on views, platforms have increasingly moved to shorter video formats ranging from 15 to 60 seconds.
  • With the emergence of generative AI such as ChatGPT and Dall-E for text and images, respectively, there is a high possibility that “self-expression” will be further diminished by making it easy to generate content without requiring the individual to apply herself in any meaningful manner.
  • Social media platforms are a capitalist enterprise. Even though capitalism seemingly thrives on increasing user choice, standardization and mass production are natural corollaries of capitalism.
  • Social media platforms promote ever greater homogenisation and mass production of ready-made expressions such as memes and emoji because they are interested not in promoting self-expression but engagement.



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