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A ‘settings change’ for social media

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 08, Mar 2022
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The years that have passed have seen an active ignoring of the concerns around social media platforms during a conflict. 

Issues with Social Media Platforms

  • Armed conflicts within and between states have played out in cyberspace for years and same dynamics play out on social media platforms where parties try to set the narrative of the events. West did little to create norms for social media as a new dimension of conflicts
    • Ex: Ukraine war where Russia is seen as an aggressor and NATO expansion posing a security threat to Russia is subdued.
  • Social media platforms themselves have gone by the mantra of “tech neutrality” to avoid taking decisions that may be considered political for too long. 
  • Content moderation remains a core area of concern, where, essentially, information warfare can be operationalised and throttled. 
  • These corporations do not have the obligation to act responsibly. Ex: Social media’s use by the Islamic State in the early 2010s and lack of effective action by platforms.
  • Even though these big platforms create special teams to handle such content, the magnitude overwhelms the teams that are sparingly staffed. 
  • The use of algorithms to deal with misinformation & disinformation have at times misfired thus necessitating human intervention.
  • After years of facing and acknowledging these challenges, most social media giants are yet to create institutional capacity to deal with such situations. 
  • World has missed the chance to have established a clear protocol on balancing the business interests of social media platforms and their intersection with global public life in critical situations.

India has a role

  • The lack of coherent norms on state behaviour in cyberspace as well as the intersection of business, cyberspace, and state activity is an opportunity for India
  • Indian diplomats can initiate a new track of conversations here which can benefit the international community at large.
  • It is necessary to reassess the domestic regulatory framework on social media platforms. Transparency and accountability need to be foundational to the regulation of social media platforms in the information age.
  • It is in our national interest and that of a rule-based global polity that social media platforms be dealt with more attention across spheres than with a range of reactionary measures addressing immediate concerns alone