Saturday May 25, 2019
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Social Media A Medium For Evil? No Remedy To Escape

Monitoring private conversations/messages is illegal.

WhatsApp's moderators should have been able to find these groups and put a stop to them

What do we do with social media which instead of being a force for good has very often tended to become a medium for evil, pure evil? The lynching of five people in Dhule district of Maharashtra on Sunday has come on the back of many such incidents of mob violence in several parts of the country. In all such incidents of gruesome killings of innocents on false pretexts, the authorities were generally rendered helpless. There is very little they could have done to prevent the rumour-monger from setting off a chain of events sitting in the privacy of his home and punching a few words on the keyboard of his smart phone.

Monitoring private conversations/messages is illegal. In any case, even if they wanted to, it is hard to police the social media. The ubiquitous smart phone has also become a source of great menace, jeopardising the lives of innocents and even triggering widespread riots and violence. The lynching of the five people in the tribal hamlet of Rainpada in Sakri talkua occurred on the suspicion that they were child-abductors. The local police said that the villagers attending a weekly market got enraged when one of the five victims alighting from a bus was seen talking to a little girl. Suspecting him to be the child kidnappers, the social media posts had warned them about, they pounced on him and the four others who alighted from the bus and killed them on the spot. Inquiries later revealed that all five were nomads who had come to the Sunday market to beg for alms.

Facebook Into Data-Sharing Partnership With 52 Companies
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

A police party which reached the spot from the district headquarters after over an hour, too, was attacked, with the people protesting that little was done to check the activities of child-lifters. Apparently, social media posts had spread rumours that gangs of child kidnappers were active in the area who forced children to beg in big towns or used them for organ harvesting. Last month, two persons were lynched in Vajipur taluka of Aurangabad district of the State on suspicion of their being robbers. Eight people were arrested for these murders. In Sunday’s incident, the police had registered a case of murder and rioting and named twelve in the FIR while it was investigating the role of several others. Yet, social media menace is universal.

A few weeks ago, two educated youths exploring the flora and fauna of a verdant place in Assam were waylaid and thrashed to death by an angry mob which suspected them to be part of a gang of child-lifters. In Assam itself a few weeks earlier, a post on a social media platform by a jealous trader about a fellow trader selling beef had led to rioting in which the shop falsely accused of selling beef was burnt down. Such incidents of mob violence sparked off by false rumours on social media have been reported from all parts of the country. Ironically, a young person hired by the authorities in Tripura to quell rumours on social media about child abductors was himself lunched by a mob.

Also read: Hookah Smoking Posts on Social Media Promote The Habit, Here’s How

Unfortunately, there is no immediate remedy against the spreading of false rumours as long as the cell phone is handily available to all comers regardless of their mental state, education and sense of social and moral responsibility. The strength of the most commonly used internet platform, WhatsApp, lies in its secrecy, its encryption. Everyone seems to be on WhatsApp as part of one group or the other. It is hard to imagine that short of directing the telecom service providers to deny internet services to people lacking a school-leaving certificate, if anything can be done to check the violent abuse of social media. Social awareness and civic sense does not come easy to a large number of people, especially when they happen to be seeped in utter ignorance and remain cut off from the mainstream. However, as a first step all telecom service providers in conjunction with the district police and civil authorities should undertake a vigorous campaign to warn people against rumour-mongering and fake news and prescribe severe punishment for offenders. (IANS)

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Vaccine Doubts Spread Across Social Media Like Disease, Should be Taken Down: Vaccine Chief

"We have to think about it as a disease. This is a disease," Berkley said. "This spreads at the speed of light, literally"

FILE - A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S. VOA

Doubts about vaccines have spread across social media like a disease and false information that “kills people” should be taken down by the companies running digital platforms, the head of global vaccine alliance Gavi said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a U.S.-sponsored event on the sidelines of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly in Geneva, Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said there was a strong scientific consensus about the safety of vaccines.

But social media algorithms favored sensational content over scientific facts, rapidly convincing people who had never seen family members die from preventable illness.

“We have to think about it as a disease. This is a disease,” Berkley said. “This spreads at the speed of light, literally.”

“A study says @Autism is out of control — a 78% increase in 10 years. Stop giving monstrous combined vaccinations,” Trump tweeted in 2012. Pixabay

WHO says poor vaccination coverage is causing measles outbreaks globally, with numbers spiking in countries that were previously almost free of the disease, including the United States.

Misinformation about vaccines, which the WHO says save two million lives annually, was not a freedom of speech issue and social media firms need to take it offline, Berkley said. “I remind people that this kills people,” he said.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said complacency, misunderstanding and misinformation were causing vaccination rates to decline globally, with tragic results.

“In my country, social media conspiracy groups confuse well-meaning parents so they hesitate to get the recommended vaccinations,” Azar said.

He rejected any criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly and erroneously tweeted about links between vaccines and autism in the years before he became president.

“A study says @Autism is out of control — a 78% increase in 10 years. Stop giving monstrous combined vaccinations,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said health authorities needed to “up our game,” adding that she was working with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other tech companies. Pixabay

Azar said Trump was “extremely firm” in support of vaccination.

“If you had been paying attention in the last month, you would know that the President of the United States, President Trump, was very clear and emphatic: get your shots, get your kids vaccinated, vaccines are safe,” Azar said.

ALSO READ: WHO to Strengthen Strategies to Combat Ebola Epidemic in Congo

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said health authorities needed to “up our game,” adding that she was working with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other tech companies.

“You’ve got to get into the trenches … and begin to get engaged much more on a personal and emotional level, because people don’t understand statistics and data. If you do that. (VOA)