A few moons ago, I was watching CNN-IBN. There was probably an hour-long debate on banning social media. The cause was the disturbance in certain areas in south India which led to exodus of Northeasterners. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were playing their part in spreading rumours. The government of India was prompt to ban bulks SMSs and MMSs, but found itself handcuffed when it came to blocking the flowing rumours going viral on Facebook and Twitter. So, the debate began, not for the first time: “Should India Ban Facebook and Twitter?” If we do ban social networking sites, we would surely not be the first one. A bigger country in terms of area and population, China has blocked Facebook and Google (when you Google in China you are routed to Hong Kong DNS) for ages. I am sceptical about the benefits of such moves. Yes, I am a digital marketer and such an extreme move of blocking SNSs will directly affect my business. Well, let me imagine for a moment, that it won’t. Even then, I don’t see a solution, because if we block Facebook, then some SNS will rear its head (For example, in China, Baidu is the indigenous and most popular search engine in Google’s absence).
I understand that social media is uncontrolled and unregulated unlike mass media. It is controlled by the democratic people of India. Unfortunately, amongst those democratic citizens are mischief makers and rumourmongers. Banning social media sites will ensure that they lose out on an accessible mouthpiece. However, banning social media sites would also mean that those who enjoy the right to speak right are also deprived of a fundamental right. It would affect the sentimental DNA of the world’s largest democracy. Today, millions of Indian youth are on Facebook and Twitter. If they are mindlessly banned from a platform they end up spending most of their time, they would lose faith in the system and government, especially at a time when India is losing its sheen as an economic power. On the other hand, the government must also understand that social media sites also have the power to generate a positive mass movement. It can also revolutionise the way the nation thinks and acts. Public awareness campaigns can go viral instantly if executed well on social media – sadly, its only brands (very few though) that have made the viral nature of social media work in their favour.
India is a diverse country. There will always be conflicts, but we need to understand the disputes on the virtual world spill-over from the real world. Our government leaders would do a lot better if they pull out the roots than banning the social media – a remedy that may cure the disease, but the relentless demon will still rear its head again, with vengeance.