Social media is a distraction, undeserving of so much sound and fury

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Context: Recently, government withdrew Twitter’s safe harbour status, and In the Parliament standing committee on IT, Members of parliament reportedly “grilled” Twitter officials. Author argues that too much attention is being given to Twitter.  

Why government shouldn’t focus too much on Twitter? 
  • Source of fake and unverified info: Twitter is a chaotic echo chamber, which is not a source of verified information. 
  • Twitter and social media simply do not provide fact-checked, reliable and accountable information that media outlets are duty bound to provide. 
  • No evidence that Twitter impacts election results: There’s also almost no evidence that Twitter influences election results in India.  
  • A study by Michigan University’s Joyojeet Pal and team has found that in 2021 Bengal polls, while several winning candidates have active Twitter profiles, a large Twitter following has little or no impact on electability – as shown by the defeat of various celebrity candidates. 
What is the best way forward? 

The primary responsibility to control and regulate Twitter is on the tech giant itself. Twitter itself must make sure that the freedom it provides is not abused and its service doesn’t descend cause problems.  

  • It can be done by putting in place a robust self-regulatory mechanism. The failure to do so opens up a window for the political class to step in. This can lead to partisan censorship and real threats to free speech. 

Excessive government intervention is always bad. It can help by creating a regulatory ecosystem with all involving all stakeholders. 

Terms to know 

  • Echo chamber 

SourceTimes of India 

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