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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeArticlesSocial Media: the fourth pillar of democracy
Monday, 13 May 2019 11:55

Social Media: the fourth pillar of democracy

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In the last few years, cheaper smartphones and data rates have brought revolution in the segment of digital content, be it video or word. Social Media platforms led by Facebook have become the main source of information as well as misinformation or fake news. 

Users today do not even visit news portals; they are flooded with the information and news on their social media like Whatsapp. Any incidence happening anywhere would mean a flood of information on Twitter. So, who have patience to wait for next day to read newspapers?

As there is no regulation to tame the activities of social media, a lot of fake news keep flooding the inboxes of users and even hate messages circulate freely.

With massive reach and lightning speed, nothing can match social media when it comes to consume news and video. Indeed, it has become the fourth pillar of democracy.

The importance of social media can be gauged by the fact that the Congress released customised content of its manifesto to various target groups on social media to have maximum reach. Not only Congress, all parties view social media as a critical communication asset in their battle to win larger share of votes.

Catchy videos often become viral, which augment a political parties narrative. Parties are seeing a huge traction in WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and the fast rise of Instagram during election.

 

Huge sums spent on Social media ads: 

This election, social media has proved it is ahead of print and TV when it comes to mould people’s opinion. Political parties are spending huge sums on ads on platforms like Facebook and Google. They placed over 51,810 advertisements on Facebook and spent ` 10.32 crore between February and March 2019 to promote their policies and achievements. BJP spent the most with ` 2.3 crore. 

 

Transparency: 

Facebook, chastised by massive leaks and fines, had said political advertisements on its platform will carry a ‘disclaimer’ offering details about those responsible for running the ad as the social media giant looks to bring transparency into political ads ahead of elections in India. Whatsapp too spent massive sums on spreading awareness on fake news.

 

Killing newspaper, magazine & TV:

Social media has almost finished other news platforms, especially magazines and newspapers. Users now have all the information they need at the touch of an app. With more than 2.4 billion internet users, nearly 64.5 percent receive breaking news from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram instead of traditional media.

Internet users mostly hear about the latest news via social media before ever hearing about it on a news station. They see the breaking stories on their feed and go to the news sites to learn more. But there is the flip side; there has been a decrease in how much of an article that people read. Most people will just scroll through their newsfeed and stumble upon relevant news content but just read the headlines or a short video clip of the piece. So, the social media, due to flood of information, has killed their attention span. It is hardly 10 seconds. 

Social media has become the minefield for journalists seeking bits of information on hot topics. They constantly keep an eye on the Twitter handles of leaders, film stars and quote tweets without permission. 

 

Uncontrolled, fast, unchecked: 

Social media gives power of publishing and telecast to every user. This is good as well as bad. Some time back, the New Zealand gunman live-streamed the massacre onto Facebook. The social network Facebook said its moderators removed it sometime after a user first reported it as troubling, 29 minutes after the stream began. 

But by then it was shared and downloaded so many times that nearly 4000 people watched it. Facebook said their officials took down the original stream after it had been watched about 4,000 times. They also added the video to an internal ban list and began blocking it almost immediately, removing 1.5 million videos of the shooting within the first 24 hours.

 

Regulation: 

On 7 April 2019, the UK said it will explore making social media executives personally liable for harmful content published on their platforms, in a raft of new online safety proposals. The plans were unveiled in a policy paper, which also include creating an independent regulator, aim to tackle all kinds of harmful content from encouraging violence and suicide to spreading disinformation and cyber bullying.

This comes in the wake of Facebook's failure to immediately halt livestreams of a March 15 attack by a self-avowed white supremacist on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people. Prime Minister Theresa May warned tech companies they had "not done enough" to protect users and that her government intended to put "a legal duty of care" on the firms "to keep people safe".

She said: "For too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content. That is not good enough, and it is time to do things differently. Online companies must start taking responsibility for their platforms, and help restore public trust in this technology." 

 

The way forward: 

Indeed, social media has become the first and fastest sources of news and information, but for authentic stories, readers still prefer traditional media. Fake news and rumours flood the social media and that, until tackled, would keep traditional media alive as it carries the mar of trust that social media lacks.

 

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