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Social Media Manipulation To Undermine Democracy

This Article is written by B.Oviya and R.Jaisurya, students of The Tamil Nadu Dr.Ambedkar Law University ( Schoool Of Excellence In Law )


ABSTRACT:

People are real assets of India as they play an important role in shaping democracy. Our goal was made achievable only by people interacting and joining hands together to reach success. But today, we have reached a stage where people can stay connected only through artificial intelligence. Fast growing technology and everlasting developments have made, “Privacy dead; social media the culprit holding guns”. In the process of increasing our social network, we started to undermine our democracy. Thus, rather than aiming to restore old ways, we can resort to initiating new methods like how to effectively use all social media as “We don’t have a choice on whether we can exclude social media, the question is how well we USE it”. It is eminent that we get all the information with a small device within seconds, but when analyzed in depth, there arises a more serious question: is all this information authentic?  We people truly know what veracious is because it’s time to “WAKE UP” and prove that “we are not puppets of someone else’s game, nevertheless it’s our own game”. Therefore, by understanding what is media and its role, we try to scan whether it’s a manipulation or a source of information. With a few new changes brought, it is with confidence that we can reach the end line of this game. This challenge is never new, as great pillars of democracies have also looked upon these problems to reach victory today. Thus, by continuing strongly in this path, we can expect a mission accomplished soon as “the very meaning of start is to reach the end”.

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INTRODUCTION:

One hundred years ago, there was no medium to know what’s happening around the world as no materialized inventions were adopted. People learnt culture or acquired knowledge only through oral interactions with people, unlike now, where we depend fully on material culture to guide us for each and every aspect of our daily lives. With ever-lasting growth in technology, media plays a very important role in our society. With the passage of time, this has led to assigning an adversarial role to social media rather than serving as a platform to provide news and information serving our needs. Media endeavors to shape a whole lot of public opinion leading to media manipulation.

Media manipulation refers to certain techniques, including creating images, videos, arguments in favor of their own interests. This basically involves suppressing information or other point of views, grouping them to one side, making people stop listening to certain arguments or use them as a source of distraction. Democracy is a form of government in which all people play a very vital role as they elect their own representatives. As people’s opinions can be expressed to all only through channels, we can find that social media plays an important role in undermining democracy.  

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SOCIAL MEDIA:

To start off with, in this present generation the young minds tend to capture the images faster than learning the words from a book, a perfect key in the developing process of social media platforms. Along with the start of the printing press in the 15th century, European revolution, the concept of information providing and information consumption started. In the 15th century, the rate of transformation of information was growing faster and faster by increasing the information production channel. Later from the 20th century, the phases of social media platforms began to develop at a lighting speed. Before, it was only used to consume information, but now every person is using the social media platforms to chit-chat, for entertainment and many other usages. In the 21st centurymany tech businesses also moved into social media platforms providing different usages for example, LINKEDIN, INSTAGRAM etc. This led to digital colonization. 

As said in a most popular quote, “EVERYTHING HAS ITS OWN ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES, WHAT MATTERS IS THE WAY WE PERCEIVE IT”. Thus, the media plays a significant role in both socialization processes, creating a strong impact on people’s decisions and also paving way to hinder from being their own self.

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SOCIAL MEDIA’S TITLE ROLE:

In a democratic country, when people turn to the marketplace for ideas, suggestions or views, we often end up landing with misinformation, misrepresentation, etc., leading to badly affecting people’s trust and unique features of our democracy. Today, the title role of people is being played by social media either to raise their voices or hear other’s opinion. On this view, the question of “ACCOUNTABILITY” in the world politically or generally, still remains unanswered, as the opinion of a person lies with the social media company itself? In today’s scenario, the social media company uses the clause, “the message said by him belongs to him thus, he is accountable for his own acts” as a veil to escape from the social responsibility and liability. This makes these platforms run scot-free. But it is wise to make sure that every message emerged from the user through any platform as a ‘MEDIUM’ should also carry the accountability and liability as only it makes the information reach the consumers. Therefore, they are equally liable in spreading misinformation and hate speeches creating chaos any commotions. Thus, the role of expressing people should be considered as social media’s title role.

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MEDIA: A SOURCE OF INFORMATION OR MANIPULATION:

The “DIGITAL COLONISATION”, has led to expansion in usage, eating away people’s private sphere of social life. But at the same time, this aids the Citizen led Governance, as one can connect millions within a minute for any cause with just a few clicks. The main problem in this splendid advantage is, people do not investigate the information or matters they get to know. They tend to accept any view or humiliate any point within just a matter of seconds. This is what is said in other words as manipulation, as it’s not our self-ideas, rather the ones arrived with influence.

Information turns into manipulation when there are no restriction lines drawn on people expressing their thoughts to others. This is because there is an increase in hate speeches, a major negativity for a progressing world leading to fake news, cyber trolling and many others. Even though the quick spreading of information has resulted in a cost-cutting process and a faster process through these medias, at the same time, it also created a manipulative society. It now ended up with the situation where, the ones who know how to manipulate can live in the society, while the rest are being manipulated to execute the ideas of manipulators.

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ROLE IN UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY:

“The digital colonization acts as a greatest threat to democracy”. One best example for this is, in some states, political parties have their own PR (Public Relation) teams as an acting force behind them, to blend their ideas into citizens, mainly based on the huge amount of transactions. This proves that the present state of democracy is in the hands of few money- based PR teams, which ultimately leads to losing the effectiveness of democracy in the minds of citizens. The big threat is, still we don’t know how to regulate media as it becomes difficult to provide a social line on the production of various information.

For example in India, a set of rules known as the “Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code” were formed for social media and other outlets, in view of involving government in censor of social contents, the government asked the ‘Twitter’ to remove more than 80 accounts which criticized the two controversial bills, “The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and Farm Acts, 2020”, raising to a nation-wide protest against the ruling government. At last, after many warnings, it stood by the decision as if they were violating the rules of the nation, it would later become a precedent to other platforms. We can also find that before these new IT rules, WhatsApp was also a key channel in producing fake forward messages to a large community, but now after abiding to the new rules, the users can forward a message only at a time to a person, reducing the rate of transmission and acknowledgement of misinformation.

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Another example is during the Trump’s government in United States, where there was many hate and extreme speeches through a popular social platform ‘FACEBOOK’. It was later analyzed that ‘Facebook’ intentionally allowed their users to spread wrong messages thinking they don’t carry the accountability for those messages. This was proved when Facebook blocked Donald Trump’s Facebook account after his term of governance as president. Thus, we find that many run businesses without the basic social responsibility affecting the stability of government.

SUGGESTION:

The best step to keep a check on social media is by defining the restriction line. This can be done by introducing new rules and stricter laws on citizens. The government can form a new ministry for social media handling or in the form of data protections, creating a big change as the said department will handle all works related to social media in a more organized way. Government instead of imposing a forceful regulation, can also promote self-regulating methods, aiding without any pre-emptive measures, giving certain positions in ad-hoc committees as these accreditations will certainly create a positive effect leading to healthier competitions. One of the main problems is, we don’t know who the sender is, as the anonymous person uses that as an advantage to escape from the hands of law. Therefore, we should keep a hold of who is sending what. One way is by connecting any important document with our social media accounts restricting all people to have only one account. Second, restricting the messages people can send in a day, age from which people can have accounts, maximum time they can login, etc., Third, a new online destination where people can reach to provide any information which undermine democracy. Fourth, conducting many programmes, interactive sessions for people to change their views and ideas about their roles, social media or democracy. 

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When all the above said suggestions will create a lot of change, it will happen only when we people start the change. Growth can be analyzed with smaller steps like we should stop relying and believing on social media information and start investigating any matter before we tend to accept it as continuous interpretation of media has ended people’s ability to make their own opinions. Generally, as the media covers a vast portion of information, people either end up believing nothing or accepting what is convincing to them. We should look out for echo-chambers, unwanted notifications, and ads. Thus, we can play our small, efficient role by starting to delete our accounts.

CONCLUSION:

It’s high time to change the fact, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” because being in a well-developing country, there is no reason to simply believe that technology can strengthen democracy. Democracy is something built by “US” people and grows only in the way we handle our complications. Democracy development lies in how well we utilize opportunities and with what intentions, as in social media, we just need to “think twice before we act”. With continuous efforts, we can change the whole picture the MEDIA has created as it’s just a matter of time,

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“We play by our rules long enough and it becomes our game.”

We should also remember that, “time isn’t the main thing, but the only thing”. Therefore, working together from day one will ultimately help us reach the finish line. Social media isn’t something we can totally exclude from society, rather a tool which needs to be used with care and caution. We should either take the risk or lose the chance as though this is a never-ending hitch, we can boost it up to maximum level as “the very meaning of start is to reach the end”.  

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