Use social media responsibly

Do not share anything without verification

While addressing the award-giving ceremony of Digital Bangladesh Day 2019 on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the country’s people not to share anything on internet or social media without verifying the authenticity of any social media content. 

The menace of misinformation online has gained considerable media and political attention and plausible solutions for combatting misinformation have often been less than satisfactory. In an environment of ubiquitous online social sharing, we contend that it is the individuals that can play a major role in halting the spread of misinformation. The communal and rapid-fire nature of many social media platforms creates the potential for errors and falsehoods – an emerging practice in conflict-related propaganda – to go viral.

The rapid growth of internet has made us able to get news and other information out faster than ever, but we’ll break it all if we don’t verify and get it right. There are two key elements: the source of a piece of content, and the content itself. These two components must be independently verified, and compared against each other to see if they tell a consistent story. It’s often the case online that a piece of content is real, but the person who has shared it isn’t the original creator. Or, alternatively, a trustworthy source may have fallen for a hoax.

As long as social media – unregulated – is allowed to spread prejudice and falsehood, and build a dominant position in advertising, it is a threat to democracy

The speed of social media and the sheer volume of user-generated content make fact-checking even more important now. Social media can provide instant news faster than traditional news outlets or sources and can be a great wealth of information, but there is also an ever increasing need to verify and determine accuracy of this information. It is important to remember that fast does not always mean accurate.

How to identify credible information on social media can be challenging. Rumors and misinformation can spread quickly through social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook. Some of the criteria used to evaluate Internet sources, such as being skeptical, asking questions, looking at the quality of the source of the information, still apply in social media.

Facebook, Google and others can foster addiction – and can be used to undermine democracy. As long as social media – unregulated – is allowed to spread prejudice and falsehood, and build a dominant position in advertising, it is a threat to democracy.

The challenges posed by internet platform monopolies require new approaches beyond antitrust enforcement. We must recognise and address these challenges as a threat to public health. One possibility is to treat social media in a manner analogous to tobacco and alcohol, combining education and regulation. For the sake of restoring balance to our lives and hope to our politics, it is time to disrupt the disrupters.