Social media is very important nowadays. Most people, especially the young, spend most of their time on social media, which has led to a number of consequences that need to be considered. However, it is a matter of fact that an individual can write whatever he or she wants with complete freedom and there is no one to stop them. In other words, it can be said that they have free space.
At present, the role of social media has increased not only as a means of communication but also as a very important tool for shaping public opinion and training the youth politically. Some even think it could lead a movement for change in the world. Contrary to that, it has also become an ideal platform for politically motivated haters to spread their destructive ideas and brainwashing the youth politically.
It is pertinent to note here, the way in which other fields have progressed in the era of modern world, in the same way, modern wars have been innovated. Today the world is facing the threat of terrorism, and terrorists have also started using modern weapons as well as modern technology to fight the war for which they are resorting to social media.
In the above stated context, when looking for the root causes of the growing influence of social media, I found that the number of social media users is steadily increasing. When this number is compared with the number of the last few years, it is clear that in 2021, the number of social media users worldwide was 3.78 billion. Whereas, in 2022, that number reached 3.96 billion users worldwide. That’s about 51 percent of the world’s population.
Thereof, it is important to note, social media has the potential to influence public opinion. It helps to share ideas and thoughts about a particular issue to a large number of people in diverse parts of the world. Its impact is no longer limited to a country’s internal affairs. Rather, this influence has reached the level of international relations, and now it plays its role in international political interaction as well. It has become a tool to spread destructive ideas, violence, helps to provoke, spread rumors and create chaos.
Besides, the ‘thorny and dangerous role of social media’, it has turned into a platform for spreading fake information, the radicalisation of the youth, spreading extremism and hate speeches, most terrorist and extremist organisations use social media platforms and websites to spread their extremist views. Perhaps the only thing that helps extremist and terrorist organisations to exploit social media is the so-called ‘anonymous people’, who use social media under fake names. But, in fact, they affiliate with some extremist or politically motivated organisations for promoting their destructive ideologies, and these “anonymous” or “fake accounts” have become a formidable threat on social media. In particular, they use social media in such a way that spreading fake news and malicious rumors, which harms national security and societies, spreads chaos.
In the meanwhile, social media has become a vital weapon for extremist organisations. Extremists are systematically using it as a battlefield. For example, we can take a test case of ISIS; ISIS is one of the largest extremist groups that has lured 25,000 foreigners to fight in Syria and Iraq by using social media. According to a US government report, 4,500 of them are from North America and Europe. Amarnath Amarasingam, a Canadian extremism researcher at Waterloo University, says, “ISIS’s campaign on social media has played a significant role in turning people’s minds to extremism.”
In 2020, Victoria Grand, then Policy Director at Google, says, in her discourse to a conference in Europe that foreign fighters from 80 to 90 countries are involved in ISIS. Their numbers are staggering in terms of race and number. ISIS is spreading poisonous propaganda on social media, while there is no strong arguments to counter it so that it can be opposed on solid grounds.
Hence, the question is; how to avoid activities that cause a destruction of values, promote immoral activities and spread chaos in our society?
The way forward…
In general, there are a number of suggestions that could play a role to regulate social media, most notably; educate young people on the safe use of social media through specialised courses supervised by experts and raise awareness about the seriousness of the ideologies and representation on social networking sites. Discourage the rumors on social media, keeping in view the current situation, punish the rumor-mongers severely.
In the context of counterfeit material, aware the masses to verify the validity of content before sharing with other individuals. Counterfeit material can be traced with various methods. For example, any content that enters, the internet has a specific code that can be retrieved from websites such as ‘Google Image Reverse’.
In conclusion, parents have to take prime responsibility to play their part and keep an eye on their children for what they are using social media for. Moreover, educational institutions have to pay attention to the new generation and should be aware of the appropriate use of social media.