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On the flipside of the coin

  • Published at 06:36 pm January 19th, 2016
On the flipside of the coin

Social media has been aiding in globalising today’s world for the last half decade or so. It brings people together, helps raise awareness, and e-commerce has never been easier. It’s completely free of cost on these social sites.

Besides their humorous and entertaining streaks of posts, memes and videos, the popular Facebook page Moja losss? (the Robin Hood of Bangladesh on social media) is also responsible for bringing many culprits to justice through awareness raising.

But it’s no news that the advantages brought to the table by social media sites come with a set of issues. We have lost count of people who have been bullied or affected by rumours circulating about them on the social media. Every post is not always aimed at raising awareness; sometimes they are cooked up to gain competitive advantages or harass someone somebody has a beef with.

There is a skeptical bunch who will think twice before believing anything they read on social networking sites, and then there’s another group of audience, gullible and wayward, who takes everything shared on these sites as the Bible.

Last December, a post describing an American girl tying the knot with a Bangladeshi rickshaw puller went viral. It was accompanied with an attached photo of the two. Later, another post on the US Embassy-Dhaka’s official Facebook page surfaced, explaining that it’s untrue.

The rumour was initiated on different Facebook profiles, pages and groups including the ever popular DSD (Desperately Seeking Dhaka) group. It quoted “American girl falls for a Bangladeshi rickshaw puller and the two tie the knot.”

Later, the post on the US Embassy’s Facebook page cleared the air clarifying that the photo which was attached to these false claims was originally posted on September 10, 2015 on the Embassy’s official Facebook page and it was of a US Fulbright Exchange Student Researcher, next to a rickshaw puller during her time in the country. The rumoured story that was going viral was baseless and untrue.

The western countries have made peace with social media rumours ages ago. Some rumours even lead to suicides in many cases. Legal actions are also taken against the culprits under certain circumstances. But in Bangladesh, we are yet to see something similar happening.

Under the Penal Code, 1860 of Bangladesh, Chapter XXI, legal actions can be taken against those committing cyber crimes, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” We now have the technology to trace offenders on social media using their IP addresses, with the aid of RAB and the police.

As powerful as it is, social media tools are being misused more often than not. Information, both accurate and false, spreads faster than the speed of light on these sites. We need to continue having access to our freedom of expression, which is why keeping away from opining something baseless at the cost of someone else’s sanity and well-being should be prioritised.