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Public, private and profit

Public, private and profit

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The giant social media platform, facebook, has been facing the criticism over allegations that it favours the ruling government in India, to push its own business goals. It has raised concerns over the role of social media, censorship and Political partisanship in private sector as well as public officials.

THE CASE OF FACEBOOK

  • As per a report in a journal, senior company official in charge of government relations in India had intervened to prevent the platform from banning a ruling Party legislator for his incendiary posts and public appearances. The legislator of the ruling party has called Muslims traitors, Rohingya immigrants should be shot, and threatened to raze mosques.
  • Earlier the company has mentioned that punishing the legislator would hurt the platform’s business prospects in India but later on he was banned. 
  • Its criteria of regulating speech are under scrutiny. In this case we have seen  political partisanship, not being attentive enough to hate speech and fake news, opaque algorithms that  direct users to particular kinds of content, inadequate privacy controls, and inordinate and unaccountable power to shape public discourse

Facebook security and privacy issues:

  • Facebook was found guilty in German and Belgian courts of violating privacy laws.
  • Cambridge Analytica scandal: It was a political data analytics firm which used a legitimate app distributed by a third party to harvest Facebook user data. The access was abused, and data was improperly passed to Cambridge Analytica to build political profiles on more than 50 million users, with the intention of influencing elections around the world.
  • In April 2018, as per a report, dozens of Facebook groups were openly being used for cybercrime purposes.
  • In 2018 attackers exploited vulnerability and obtained access tokens for 30 million accounts of facebook.
  • Facebook was accused of designing its Android app permissions in a way that it obfuscated the fact that the app was gathering user call logs and SMS data from users in 2015 and earlier.
  • In 2019, researchers discovered third-party databases containing 146 GB of Facebook data on 540 million users exposed publicly.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL PARTIES

  • Political parties in India know the importance social media. Everyone has recognizing this powerful weapon to interact with the masses and make them participate and thereby enabling better communication.
  • Indian politicians have started experiencing the impact of social media in one form or the other. Now, almost every political party used the social media to get their message across the masses.
  • Political campaigns are in no way just limited to buttons and banners for politicians to reach their constituents. The new political arena is full of commercials, blog posts, and hundreds of tweets.
  • Through social media like Facebook or Twitter, politicians are able to constantly display their message through endless commercials.
  • Social media is creating a new political dialogue. It takes the power of political messaging away from the mass media model and places it firmly into peer-to-peer, public discourse.

MAJOR CONCERNS

Private sector

  • Facebook has posed a serious challenge and there is no any easy way solution for this.
  • This is an age of Fourth revolution and social media. The age of a social media is like printing revolution of the 14th and 15th century which empowered masses of people and help in bringing the nationalism.
  • The problem is not with the policy structure of the social media like facebook, which is a private company and can be control through legal provisions and by their own codes of conduct, but with the private views of the officials working there. This is also can be seen as a violation of free speech of those people.

Public Officials

  • The issue of political partisanship is not only with the private workers but also with the public officials like bureaucrats and judges.
  • There is no challenge to the political partisanship of public officials. Many serving IAS officers now don’t just disseminate government schemes, but openly violate norms of civil service neutrality, without repercussions.
  • Even in official circles, where non-partisanship was appropriate, the norm has been eroded.

Credibility:  

  • We have seen in the last few years that there has been complete fusion of social media, private and public roles. So, maintaining a strict boundary between the public role and private or political views in social media age is very difficult.

Censorship: 

  • In present, both the ruling and opposition parties used to claim to be victim of Facebook’s censorship policy.
  • Censorship, whether public or private, always invites charges of partisanship. It is probably hard to censor nowadays, things get disseminated one way or the other.
  • In some sense, social media makes these distinctions difficult to maintain. The distinction between speech and action has become harder in an age where speech goes viral with unpredictable effects.
  • The authority of private companies to censor or redirect the speech of elected officials is under scrutiny. This can most likely rebound in a democratic backlash against free speech, more than it would cleanse the system of hateful speech.
  • Censors will always remain there, will be politicized deeply and will raise a question that how much authority to censor one should grant to private and relatively unaccountable entities like Facebook.

CONCLUSION

Facebook got attention because it’s a great power and needs to be regulated. But it is not sure that other platforms will solve concerns about partisanship and censorship in social media. Companies want to blur the distinction between public and private. Social media cannot profit unless everything private becomes public. They know that, in some sense, hate pays and wants to cash on it. So while we need to ask tough questions about Facebook’s role, let us not pretend that all we are doing is enacting a performance. Resisting Facebook’s power will require a more radical withdrawal from a logic of profit that blurs the boundary between public and private, without which no freedom and civility is possible.

Source: Indian express