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Ethical concerns regarding Misuse of social media

GS Paper 4

 Syllabus: Application of Ethics


Source: TOI


Context: The Supreme Court has expressed concern over the misuse of social media platforms, initiating contempt proceedings against an Assam legislator for a misleading Facebook post about a pending case.


Factors responsible for misuse of Media:

The misuse of social media platforms stems from various factors, including the rapid growth of the internet coupled with the anonymity it provides, the expanding user base, and the ambiguity surrounding the legal responsibilities of social media platforms. Additionally, advancements in artificial intelligence, such as deepfake technology, have exacerbated the issue, while the absence of robust grievance redressal mechanisms further compounds the problem.


Negative Impact of Misuse of Media:

The negative impacts of this misuse are far-reaching, leading to the propagation of prejudiced narratives based on incomplete or inaccurate information, excessive trolling, and unjustified public opinions. Furthermore, it results in defamation, invasion of privacy, the dissemination of morphed images, and disrespect to religious sentiments. There is also a growing concern about the fear of bias in judicial decisions due to public pressure and the spread of disharmony, financial fraud, and incitement of violence.


In response, governments have implemented measures such as the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 and the establishment of PIB’s Fact Check Unit to address misinformation. They have also issued advisories to intermediaries and taken actions like blocking OTT platforms from publishing obscene or vulgar content.


The ethical issues in the case include:

  1. Misuse of Freedom of Expression: Posting misleading information on social media under the guise of freedom of speech can mislead the public and undermine the integrity of the judiciary.
  2. Integrity of the Judiciary: False claims about court proceedings can erode public trust in the judicial system and compromise the administration of justice.
  3. Accountability of Public Figures: Elected officials, like the Assam legislator in this case, have a responsibility to uphold ethical standards and avoid spreading misinformation, especially regarding legal matters.
  4. Social Media Abuse: The case highlights the broader issue of social media abuse, including trolling and spreading false information, which can have serious consequences for individuals and institutions.


Views of Thinkers:

Thinker Perspective
Mahatma Gandhi Warned about the potential misuse of technology for nefarious purposes, emphasizing the need for ethical considerations and responsible use to prevent harm to society.
Plato Expressed concerns about the power of rhetoric and persuasion in shaping public opinion, cautioning against the manipulation of truth and dissemination of false information through media.
Swami Vivekananda Highlighted the importance of moral and ethical values in technological advancements, urging individuals to use social media responsibly and ethically to promote positive social change.
Marshall McLuhan Introduced the concept of the “global village” and the pervasive influence of media on society, raising concerns about the homogenization of culture and the loss of critical thinking skills.
Amartya Sen Stressed the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic society but cautioned against the unchecked spread of misinformation, advocating for measures to ensure media accountability.