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Dhaka Tribune

Battling misinformation requires educating social media users

A webinar on misinformation and freedom of expression was organized by Pen Bangladesh on Friday.

Update : 21 Nov 2020, 02:41 PM

Speakers at a webinar said misinformation on social media will continue to spread if social media users are unable to evaluate information with reason and logic. 

They also said freedom of expression does not mean mindlessly spreading misinformation and malicious contents on social media.

The webinar on misinformation and freedom of expression was organized by Pen Bangladesh on Friday.

Pen Bangladesh is a society of Bangladesh-based writers, poets, publishers, editors, translators, journalists and academics, aimed at promoting literature and defending the freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

Nazrul Kabir, vice president of Dhaka Reporters’ Unity, said rationality is the key to fighting misinformation on social media.

“If the government wants to enact a law, it needs to prepare its citizens to follow the law. A significant number of people are misusing social media platforms,” he said.

If a social media user is not a rational thinker, they are likely to believe misinformation and circulate it on their social media accounts, he said. 

He also said people in this society need to learn the difference between freedom of expression and arbitrariness.

Shakil Ahmed, Ekattor Television's chief of news, said the social media is designed in a way that an individual can express their opinion in these platforms without  verifying anything. 

“We have a Digital Security Act for Bangladesh but we do not have any law that could question people who are living abroad and making malicious comments about Bangladesh,” he said.

In many countries where people get to exercise their freedom of expression, there are laws against people making any malicious comments about a community or country, he said.

Sohrab Hossain, joint editor of Prothom Alo, said the Digital Security Act often bars people from having access to information.  

“People who are in power right now are making laws like the Digital Security Act but when they were in the opposition they were fighting against censorships,” he said. 

He said people are self-censoring themselves on social media out of fear of getting arrested and freedom of expression cannot be practiced in this environment of fear. 

Milu Shams, literature editor of Daily JanaKantha, said information has become a commodity these days and companies like Facebook control information more than the states. 

Bangla Tribune Editor Zulfiqer Russell moderated the webinar.

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