Since the dawn of 21st century, Internet has taken over the world. Surge of people rely on social media as their daily source of information. This phenomenon is most pronounced in developing nations. A study done in 2013 showed developing nations is more advanced than the U.S in their use of social media. The report estimated that 76% of Malaysians adopt social media in the daily lives.
Pros of Social Media
Social media expedites passing of information and is accessible via a simple click. The media world can play a vital role in saving lives. It was recently concluded that Twitter tracks Cholera outbreaks faster than Health Authorities. Social media has been used for economic empowerment. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) details a project they have funded to aid dissipate information and educate rural farmers via SMS. Social media mobilizes public opinions, used to organized protests, helps monitoring and reporting wrongdoings and allows upload of videos to share atrocities and rights violation.
Cons of Social Media
As with everything else, even the social media can be misused and cause harm. It has paved way for recruitment of terrorists, organization of attacks, spreading of lies, inciting of hate towards any individual and increase of financial scams. Kidnappers and robbers also use the social media to plan for their ill activities. An increase in sexual crime is related to the world of social media as well.
Worldwide governments take on social media
Recently, there is a notion being spread in Malaysia that the government is considering to put a cap on social media. Allegations that the government monitors activities on social media are also widespread. Is Malaysia the only country that is looking at imposing a control on the digital world?
A Paris-based international NGO called Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of countries who are ‘Enemies Of The Internet’ (countries that are said to censor news and information online as well as represses Internet uses) and ‘Countries Under Surveillance’ (countries where Internet is relatively open and news is constantly surveyed). Some of the countries in the list of ‘Enemies Of The Internet’ are China (2008 to present), India (2014 to present), North Korea (2006 to present), Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom (2014 to present) and United States of America(2014 to present). Contrary to popular believe and lies spread by the Opposition coalition locally, Malaysia is classified under ‘Countries Under Surveillance’ (2011 to present). Isn’t it ironic how Malaysians beg the U.S to intervene and assist us in Malaysia because the government is supposedly the cruelest and represses online users?
British Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to be pressing ahead with legislations that ban social chatting applications like WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat. The British government wants to put a stop to people sending encrypted messages that the government cannot monitor.
With regards to Press Freedom, the 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranks Malaysia 147 out of 180 countries. Countries like Singapore, China and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ranks lower than Malaysia. Malaysia has been ranked in the 140’s since 2013 after a drastic decline from 2012. The international based media watchdog RSF says the drastic decline from 2012 to 2013 in Malaysia is due to censorship of information from extremist groups like Islamic State and Boko Haram. While the Opposition would spin and say the government suppresses their news that has led to a drop in the index, RSF gives a completely different reason. The American ranking continues to fall on a yearly basis and they are labeled to be declaring ‘war on information’. Looking at the index of all countries in our region, no country is ranked above 115.
While social media is undoubtedly an important tool that can bring a lot of positives if used responsibly, absolute freedom can cause more harm to any country. I do not support the idea of a complete ban to social media but I definitely agree that strict surveillance is totally required.
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