Editorial | Mar 02,2019
Nov 12 , 2022
By Abraham Tekle
The Internet revealed two dark sides six years ago. One is related to individual users.
Smartphones with content-delivery platforms are available every waking moment, transforming the technology industry and the lives of two billion users worldwide. With little or no regulatory supervision in most of the world, social media applications are used to foster psychological addiction. It has become a part of everyday life, encouraging user communications.
It also harms the vulnerable and marginalised in politics and economic life.
Since the Internet has revolutionised how most people live, its reflections have extended to our country. Despite the state's monopoly of the service - at least until recently - it has become an integral part of economic, political, and social life. It also has altered ways of interactions.
The Arab Spring marked a notable moment in the revolution of social media. Facebook has played a catalyst in facilitating the revolt in the African Arab states, including the fall of Ben Ali's regime in Tunisia and the Egyptian turmoil that led to the fall of Mubarak's regime.
The outcome is close in Ethiopia's case. Social media has been instrumental in inciting ethnic hatred and fueling the war in the last four years.
Although the problem is at its crucial juncture, no law has been put in place to govern the use of social media. Awareness of the risks posed by Internet platforms is growing from a small base. Still, convenience and addiction may take a generation to bring change from the user side. There should be clear user guidelines and an effective regulatory strategy.
Trust and accountability are the two most important domains that should be highlighted to effect positive outcomes. The founders of Facebook, Twitter, and other major platforms did not intend to cause harm when they adopted their business models. They were young entrepreneurs hungry for success. They spent years building huge audiences by reorganising the online world and building applications that were more personalised, convenient, and easier to use than their predecessors.
Deploying such a platform changes a democratic system and frees us mentally and in the physical sense. But every piece of information spewed on social media networks requires scrutiny because the platforms are open to manipulation.
Users should be sceptical and examine the information posted before consuming it at face value. Judging the credibility of the source is another measure. Considering the possibility that a particular entity with a political or personal agenda can be behind the source is helpful. Falsified, biased and one-sided information is posted using Internet outlets. Such posts can trigger chaos and damage to the already worse situation-accountability and responsibility matter.
Commercialising products and seeking recognition can satisfy unique views, but when individuals selectively malign and insult others, it reveals their intention.
The challenges posed by Internet-based platforms under the thumbs of a few corporates require new approaches beyond antitrust law enforcement exercise. We must recognise and address these challenges as a threat to public safety. Creating an effective regulatory strategy is an excellent way to start.
PUBLISHED ON Nov 12,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1176]
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