The emergence of some recent incidents in Middle East and South Asia and their analysis in the context of the wide-spread use of Social Media Websites and overwhelming response from internet-users all over the World bring in mind some important questions:
- Is Social Media emerging as a new threat for Law and Order situation or even it can put in danger any state security?
- Are Social Media and Text Messages so effective and appealing to a mob that can fuel tension in any region to aggravate the communal situation?
- Can Social Media be used as a lethal weapon to declare an unperceived war from one religious group to other, one ethnic group to other, and one nation to other or even from one state to other?
- Is Social Media a new security challenge that needs a place in state security planning and structure?
All these questions can also be derived from the statement of Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, while addressing to Senior Police Officers in a conference in New Delhi, few days ago, who pointed out the dangers of use of Social Media to inflame ethnic tensions after online threats and text messages sparked a mass exodus of migrants from southern cities. The use of social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge. We need to fully understand how miscreants use the media… and devise strategies to counter the propaganda that is carried out by these new means.
The reason of Mr. Singh’s concern was because of a wide spread inflammatory text messages and videos that caused a major evacuation of migrant workers and students belonging to North-East areas who were engaged with high-tech centers of Bangalore and other Southern cities.
In Arab Spring, young activists were using Social Media as a tool of propagation and contact with general public to arouse them against government in the name of democratic rights and freedom of expression but on the part of government it was a threat for state security plan and an anti-state activity that was putting country security in danger.
Similarly in Iran, on the occasion of last Presidential Election, anti-government demonstrations were foiled by government after banning Facebook, Twitter and many news websites, ensuring a total blackout of news about dissidents’ activities which were according to government sources, creating division among citizens and demonstrators were playing in the hands of state enemies, Here again role of Social Media came under lime light as a threat for national security.
Next example of lethal use of Social Media to declare an unperceived war against Muslims, is the making of notorious film “The Innocence of Muslims” by Sam Bacile, an American-Israeli, which is totally anti-Islam and falls in the category of blasphemous movies. This sacrilegious movie believes to be funded by Israeli Government and other Jews residing in America. This film is a pre-planned heinous attempt against Muslims to provoke their religious sentiments and use of YouTube is made deliberately to propagate this movie across the Muslim World.
On Friday, September 21, 2012, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the Muslim World to denounce the sacrilegious anti-Islam film uploaded on YouTube. In Pakistan unfortunately the protesters gave vent to their anger against the movie by resorting to clashes with police, setting vehicles on fire, ransacking buildings, torching petrol pumps, banks, cinemas and damaging other public utility facilities. Government suspended Mobile Phone Services all the day to prevent messaging/ conversation amid concerns over its possibly deadly use in deteriorating law and order situation.
Government of Pakistan has officially demanded of the American government that it immediately take measures to remove the sacrilegious video from YouTube. Foreign Office Spokesman said:
“This was an attack on 1.5 billion Muslims and a premeditated and a malicious act to spread hatred and violence among people of different faiths. All faiths need to promote inter-religious harmony and tolerance. The intentional spread of hatred among faiths is an attack on humanity itself,”
In the background of above cited examples, now the question arises, should any of Social Media Websites be allowed any user to use its platform to spread hatred, violence among peoples of different ethnic identity, faith and religion? Although almost every notable Social Media website applies a term for prohibiting the uploading of such objectionable materials and seldom takes action if reported by other users, yet actual problem is, when the matter comes about Muslims or Islam then it is bracket with the right of Freedom of Expression or Speech. Just consider about the example of blasphemous cartoons uploaded on Facebook and removal was refused by Facebook as to them it was only a matter of freedom of expression and sentiments of more than One Billion Muslims were of no worth. This double standard is the actual bone of contention.
Do the influential, fast-penetrating and far-reaching Social Media Websites need a control by implementing restrictions over their use or introduce content filters to refrain citizens watching or reading such objectionable or threatening material to their society or all should it be done in the name of State Security to block or censor text messages allegedly spreading hatred, harassment or targeting a specific race, faith or religion? For the sake of a solution, It can be suggested to make an essential global rule for the platform of all Social Media Sites, NOT to mark off the basic right of people all over the World in the name of Freedom of Expression that is directly attached to their racial, linguistic, religious and cultural identities. BUT within an individual territory, how it could be politically dealt with in the name of state security, is a real emerging challenge of Social Media!