Social media & regulation: India fails once again?

Saloni Surti
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Social media & regulation: India fails once again?
Lack of geographical boundaries makes social media regulation an arduous task. Nonetheless, increasing ambiguity of content, rickety sentiments around fragile subjects and varying public opinion in general have given rise to a sharp need of touchstones that sunder acceptable from something that is not.

Not many days ago, Twitter made its user guidelines available in vernacular languages. This is however limited to readers who actually have the patience to read those guidelines – slim pickings indeed.

Between, July to December 2014, Twitter received 41 account information requests from the Indian government. So, who actually requires building a regulation mechanism, Twitter, Indian government or the users who actually post ambiguous content?

Self regulation & Government

In 2007 Indian law enforcement entered an agreement with the then popular social networking site Orkut to track down what it deemed as defamatory content which, in their example, included content critical of Bal Thackeray.

Additionally, in 2011 Kapil Sibal, the then acting Telecommunications minister of India bought in pre – screening of content on popular websites such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo!

However, that has been the extent of it. Not to mention that taking off content on Bal Thackeray neared more to anarchism and not regulation.

On similar lines, in 2012 Australian MPs started using their legislative powers, compelling social networks to swiftly delete offensive content. The move was taken, briefly after Facebook refused to take action against a “controversial humour.” (Yes, the page did disappear miraculously after a few days).

Where does one draw a line between anarchy and regulation?

A change in Violent Threat policies by Twitter or other such generic movements need to be translated into niche solutions basis culture of individual countries. Look at it this way, buddhi (old lady) might not be a violent word according to Twitter. However, when placed it in India in a tweet by KRK, everything becomes violent.

The need is of customised solutions which require the Government to team up with social media platforms to nurture content.

Also, when there is an IBF for television, ASCI for advertising, then why not a regulatory body for social media?

It’s simple; no one grows into a responsible citizen by themselves. Everyone needs to be groomed and nurtured into it. Social media is the young kid that needs the same.

Self regulation & content

AIB Knockout was an eye opener. While I personally enjoyed the show thoroughly, there were plenty of those who took offence. How do we deal with it? Not creating content is definitely not an option.

A possible option would be to create awareness around the nature of the content and make it difficult to access. For instance, along with a disclaimer, AIB could have resorted to options such as creating a sign up page to access the content.

Self regulation & users

While we discuss the responsibilities that social networking sites and the Government need to take up, we also need to vouch for the fact that a major chunk of responsibility lays with us citizens.

How many of us actually approved to the tweets put up by Farah Khan and Abhijeet on #SalmanVerdict?

As a socially responsible citizen we need to account for what we put up on our social media pages. Yes, it is our personal page to voice our personal opinions. But there has to be a shade of regulation to it. If we draw a line between strong opinions and hate speech, the Government may actually not have to resort to anarchism.

The final step

From backlash on Deepika’s cleavage post to varied responses on received on AIB Knockout, India so far has not incorporated self regulation in its social media deeds. Will we take an action before it’s too late?

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