According to Internet Live Stats, about 34.8% of India’s total population, which accounts to 462 million people, use internet. The proportion is not too high, but even then, India has the second largest number of internet users in the world. The number of internet users in the country has drastically grown by 30% since 2015. And as the popularity, availability and affordability of smart phones, and internet data plans is increasing, this number is set to rise more.
Social media has become highly popular in the country. With many organisations, government and popular celebrities joining and engaging on these social media platforms, it has become a significant part of the Indian pop culture. Social media has become a platform where the influencers often seek support and feedback from the mass. For individuals, social media is a platform that allows their voices to be heard.
Social Media is a powerful tool in the country. However, as it is rightly said in ‘Spiderman’ movie and comics, that “With great power comes great responsibility.”
In the recent months, several people died in India because of mob violence, ignited by false rumours of child kidnappers roaming around in the villages on WhatsApp. The rumour became viral among villagers who armed themselves and started attacking any outsiders they do not recognise.
In another case, few others were killed as they were mistaken to be cow slaughterers because of another rumour on WhatsApp.
According to experts, since the rural Indians are newly exposed to internet and data, they are unable to separate the truth from false rumour, believing everything they receive. Also, on WhatsApp, since the messages are forwarded by often friends and family, the people do not consider verifying the information before acting on it. Hence, these incidents happen.
In order to combat such mob violence incidents in the country, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked WhatsApp to ensure that their platform is not used for such activities. WhatsApp has responded saying that they would try to come up with a feature which would prevent Indian users from forwarding a message to five people or more at once. These incidents are also the cause for internet shutdowns by the government during times of distress.
Putting a restriction on the usage of social media is contradictory to democracy. Also, it overlooks the potential of social media to perpetuate positive change in the society. However, using this powerful tool to enable and empower people to participate in national development, to tell stories of unsung heroes to inspire everyone and to keep a critical watch at the government and demand the leaders to be more accountable, will make the country a better place to live in.
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The CSR Journal Team