Experts call for gate-keeping social media across borders
ISLAMABAD: Media experts on Sunday stressed the need for gate-keeping social media by enacting international as well as national laws to ensure filtering of fake information and discouraging propaganda against any particular group or society.
“In contemporary modern world times, the state’s responsibilities have increased manifold and it has to protect its citizens from the bad use and misuse of the kinds of propaganda over these social platforms, so that our attitudes do not become negative which can have social impact,” said Department of Media and Communication Studies, International Islamic University, Chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal addressing the two-day international conference of news agencies attended by delegates from around 20 countries.
Dr Zafar proposed that state should be responsible for protecting the minds of people to avoid extremist and radicalized approaches in the society. “We need to establish analysis centre to monitor what is coming through social media,” he said. “People like or dislike what is coming on social media; we need to use different techniques of sentiment analysis to gauge negativity, associated with social media posts,” he added.
He also suggested establishing a research-based watchdog at the state level for social media, other than Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). He said social media had flooded every society and there were around 50 million social media users in Pakistan. “Some of the fake and spicy news are there, hate mongers are also there which are affecting our attitude and behavior,” he added.
He stressed the need to train and educate the children by imparting them critical thinking that the information they were receiving over social media, was either fake or real.
Senior journalist M Ziauddin said that the developed countries had strict rules and regulations regarding social media. For example, he said, this year Germany’s parliament adopted a law that includes a provision for fines of up to Euro 50 million on popular sites like Facebook and Youtube if they fail to remove within 24 hours obviously illegal content such as hate speech and incitements to violence.
He said social media and the digital sphere offered a great new opportunity for journalism, enabling reporters to tell stories in different ways, while working with data to create depth and context for their audience. However, those who indulge in propaganda are also making use of data with considerable success, spreading misinformation with the purpose of promoting their own agendas, leading to a loss of trust in the media in the process, he added.
He said the way media was being manipulated these days, makes it very difficult for even the highly professionals among the journalists to escape becoming willing promoters of this propaganda without realizing what they were doing.
Head of Department Mass Communication, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Mufti Jamiluddin said although social media had made it easy for the people to receive information rapidly, there was a question about the authenticity of information. He said the responsibility of print and electronic media had also increased in that regard as they had to sort out the genuine and fake news items flooding the social media.
Dr Jabbar from Rifah University pointed out that media could play role in shaping behavior of a society, government and particularly mindset of the society. He said in the wake of abundance of news information pouring out in the social media, the role of news agencies had become even more important. He said the correspondents of news agencies were more responsible. “The news agencies will continue to play role in disseminating authentic, accurate, responsible and credible news information,” he added.
During the interactive session, News Editor Union of OIC News Agency, Saudi Arabia Elsadig Bashir commented that usually the journalists face negative attitude from government officials as they were not allowed to have direct access to the news sources, which normally resulted in misperception about a particular issue.
Dr Zafar Iqbal said although most of the countries around the globe including Pakistan had laws regarding access to information but these laws could not be implemented fully.