Jhooth ka khaufnaak manzar,
Afvaaho ka ye samandar,
Kiski baaton par aitbaar karoon,
Yahan toh har or hai,
Hawaon mein udta khanjar wanjar!
When I sat down to write my column this week, these few lines sprang into my head and began making noise. I began to ponder what type of nasty mentality the individual must have had who posted the fake news on social media about Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s daughter Aaradhya’s illness and even death. The wicked mind posted the video and people unknowingly spread it? We are a culture that gives and receives blessings; how can we ever contemplate death for someone? Unfortunately, the presence of such warped minds on social media is on the rise.
This is not the first incident involving the Bachchan family. They approached court, but there are several similar stories. Such crimes continue to be committed against those who participate in social activities. What exactly is movie gossip? The same thing happens with the politicians. It’s entertaining to target and embarrass others. It’s a kind of disease. The perpetrators don’t think about its impact on others, or how it impacts their family?
In the case of Aaradhya, the Delhi High Court has ordered delisting and deactivation of all such videos from Google and YouTube, and prohibited the uploading of any video that violates Aaradhya’s privacy. The court has also sought specific information about those who posted fake footage about Aaradhya. It is as simple as clicking a button to collect this information for Google and YouTube. Let us hope this information will reach the court and the perpetrators would be punished. The court has also observed that it is the responsibility of Google and YouTube not to allow such videos to be uploaded! The question that arises here is what kind of attitude these platforms are displaying. The Indian courts warned not once but several times, and the government also tried to rein them in but these social media platforms have been continuously trying to find an escape route. I don’t understand why? Do they exert so much influence that they can do whatever they want and the law should not take its course against them?
Keep in mind that all these platforms began as means of interaction but were cleverly renamed social media. Do they have anything which can be termed media? The term “media” refers to a forum for analysing news and issues. There is a provision in the newspapers, TV stations and even websites to investigate the news and ensure its authenticity. The journalists working on these platforms ensure that nothing inappropriate is published, but there is no such safeguard on social media! You can publish or upload anything on Google, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It makes no difference to them what you upload. You’re browsing Facebook and suddenly a video that will put you to shame will appear. Let alone abusive posts, even sex-related material begins to appear. After all, there must be some checks and balances somewhere. Actually, people create hullabaloo when the government considers action. However, they do not use their own judgement. After all, the government is yours, and in a democracy, you are also the government! Who will deal with such things then?
I have served on the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology. I am well aware of and comprehended everything. I believe that the Internet is a rich source of knowledge that has altered our perception of the world, but we must also pay attention to what is presented in front of the people and what they are watching. Everything has a positive and negative side. We must strike a balance. The decent people on the social platform are also bearing the brunt of other people’s faults.
Recently, videos showing migrant workers from Bihar being beaten up and chased away in Tamil Nadu, suddenly started appearing on social media. People in Bihar were outraged, and the administration in Tamil Nadu was perplexed as to why the government machinery had not received information about such an incident. After a quick investigation, it was discovered that this fake video was created by Manish Kashyap, a YouTuber from Bihar. In Tamil Nadu, no such incident had occurred. Many of the videos were from outside of Tamil Nadu and rather old. Manish showed a video of labourers returning home on Holi as an escape. People naturally trusted him at first. This reminds me of a ‘sher’ of Wasim Barelvi:
Woh jhooth bol raha tha bade salike se,
Main aitbaar na karta to aur kya karta?
Manish is presently in judicial custody, but the question is the same again: Why did YouTube allow such videos to be uploaded without verification? In fact, there is no provision for any such control. You may be startled to learn that Twitter has dissolved its own Trust and Safety Council. There is no available information about what arrangements were made after that. The UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric has even stated that an environment that spread hatred is fostered by social media sites. At least in India, we are witnessing this and dealing with the consequences. It is impacting our social fabric. Shariq Kaifi has rightly penned these lines:
Jhooth par uske bharosa kar liya,
Dhoop itni thi ki saayaa kar liya!
So it’s time to be cautious. It’s natural to get confused when so many things are served to you so quickly. Apply your mind… or else this storm of rumours will hurt you too!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.