Spreading of Misinformation and Disinformation on Social Media is Alarming


Published on May 17, 2024
  • Details Image

Abuse of social media platforms has become a catalyst for social, religious, political, and economic conflicts in Bangladesh. This misuse is causing significant damage, misinformation, and harmful issues that are being used to create tension and destroy the peace of society. Social media is flooded with fraudulent material, and political unrest is happening in our society. This poses a challenge to all of us in building a peaceful and inclusive society. Careful management of the government and law enforcement agencies is required to maintain peace and order in the country. Social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, has become a breeding ground for illegal profits from misinformation about Bangladesh.

Eighty-four percent of internet users in Bangladesh have a Facebook account, contributing to the spread of thousands of misleading pieces of content daily. This creates a situation where a significant portion of the population cannot independently verify the accuracy of the information they encounter. The rampant spread of misinformation has evolved into a considerable social challenge, with historical examples of political and communal violence in Bangladesh under its influence. As the popularity and accessibility of social media increase, the fight against misinformation becomes more complex, posing a severe threat to the nation's stability. The potential consequences of this misinformation epidemic are dire, underscoring the situation's urgency.

The fundamental basis of human rights in Bangladesh, freedom of expression, is under threat due to the prevalence of misinformation. To combat this, initiatives at the local level must be undertaken, focusing on engaging various stakeholders, especially the youth. The meaningful participation of youth and youth-led organizations is crucial and empowering. They can identify processes and effectively address challenges. The objective is to inspire youth to play an active role against misinformation and contribute to strengthening mechanisms to address these challenges locally and nationally.

Misinformation and misleading information are not isolated issues; These threaten the credibility of journalism worldwide. In Bangladesh, platforms like Facebook and Messenger are essential in spreading misinformation, often going viral. This global challenge requires collaborative efforts to combat misinformation and maintain objective standards of information dissemination on a broad scale. It involves understanding the various techniques employed to uncover the web of misinformation, including creating false links, misleading content, and deceptive content. Bangladesh's technological landscape, with an internet penetration rate of 31.5 percent and 188 million mobile phone users, is also high in smartphone usage.

The challenge is to manage this flow of information to prevent harmful consequences. Verification challenges in the age of social media stem from the fact that anyone can be a news source, which complicates the verification process. Such hate speech is not a concern on Twitter or other social media sites like Meta. Many who oppose hate speech claim that social media policy commitments and implementation differ, particularly on Facebook, which plays a significant role in disinformation, discussion of conspiracy theories, and approval of inflammatory advertising. UN experts said that, given the many complaints, META took the initiative to launch an essential mechanism, such as the monitoring council, in 2020.

It may take a long time to see the effectiveness of this council. Addressing the incitement of racial hatred online requires continued commitment at the highest level by social media to review and revise their processes. It is now a reality that social media has also gained immense popularity in our country and the contemporary world. On the one hand, it has excessive practical importance; on the other hand, the level of abuse creates an unwanted wall of ugliness and doubt-fear in society. At the crossroads of bad culture, false, baseless propaganda of politics-religion-economy-general social issues, communalism, malice, intolerance, violence, conflict, and separation are becoming significant obstacles in the smooth movement of life. Various negative statements by some people are creating an unstable situation. This social disharmony prolongs unbearable suffering in the lives of the masses. It is crucial to analyze how much the deviation of the creative-thinking-human-moral character of the young society under the cover of modern information technology will play a role in building a normal society in the future.

In 2010, the famous British writer Howard Jacobson, who won the Booker Prize, expressed fear, "Facebook-Twitter will make children stupid in 20 years." Children of the future generation will be illiterate due to the dominance of various social media, including Facebook and Twitter. With the use of smartphones and a large number of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, the communication method of the young generation is changing dramatically. Because of all this, they are losing the habit of reading books. According to criminologist experts, social media has recently become our daily companion.

This medium is affecting our human qualities. Many are getting involved in crimes like money laundering, aggressive games, rape. Many are mentally unstable. Due to its excessive use, the risk of various diseases, including anger-anger-depression-depression-loneliness-depression-heart disease, is increasing. According to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is concerned about the misuse of social media, 'social media is not for wasting time. It can be beneficial if used properly. But if you sit here and digest whatever is shown, it won't happen.' Apart from making positive contributions, many of the expatriate and immigrant Bangladeshis are engaged in propaganda against the country.

Bangladesh's image is being questioned due to its frequent presence and dissemination of anti-national offensive comments and speeches in various media, including social media. According to sources published in the media, 70 percent of the world's Internet users are connected to social media, of which almost 90 percent are young. Bangladesh's most popular social media are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Skype, etc.. Eighty percent of internet users in Bangladesh have Facebook accounts, many of whom are teenagers.

According to the survey results of various domestic and international organizations, a significant number of young men and women are suffering from deviant mental problems due to misuse of social media attention to study sports and busying themselves with electronic devices day and night. The extreme slippage is the education policy ethics. Widespread conflict-violence. This social communication has been considered as a means of various dimension crimes, including providing false information-hate-hate, sex and obscenity-defacement-currency, and human trafficking-gambling-cyber violence.

The rise of crime on social media has resulted in many sites like YouTube and Facebook taking steps to prevent the first exposure of content, including quickly removing unacceptable and harmful content, as a result of law enforcement worldwide. YouTube and Facebook authorities regularly publish information to remove inappropriate content. According to the Google-owned video-sharing site, they removed 8.8 million videos, 3.3 million harmful channels, and 517 million unacceptable comments between July and September 2020. Facebook authorities claim they removed 30 million harmful contents during the mentioned period. Still, due to the abundance of inappropriate and dangerous content, the company alone can't prevent it.

Despite hundreds of efforts by regulatory companies, it is increasing at a massive rate daily. It has also been proposed that conditional registration from BTRC be obtained for every website, social media, and online entertainment platform operating in Bangladesh. One of the conditions is that any website and social media operating in the country must have its office in Bangladesh. NOC from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is mandatory for websites with news-curated content-film-web series. Various countries worldwide are also trying to regulate social media based on legal frameworks.

The German government enacted the NetzDG in 2018 to establish a system for social media companies to review complaints about objectionable content published on their sites—remove content within 24 hours of publication—update reports every six months on the companies' performance, according to an analysis of media data. Disclosure is mandated. According to the Social Media Regulation Act 2021 in India, the Indian government can request Twitter and other media authorities to delete a user's post and reveal the user's identity. Social media regulation laws were passed in Australia in 2019, with fines of up to 10 percent of companies' global turnover and three years in prison for tech executives for posting hateful and violent content.

The China Cyberspace Administration regularly shuts down various websites and removes harmful mobile apps, including gambling. Hundreds of thousands of cyber police in the country regularly monitor social media platforms and sensitive screen messages. Everything in the world has both positive and negative aspects. But what matters most is how we embrace and use the positive aspects of anything. These days, thanks to social media, a great medium of business has started. In this mechanized busy life, many people cannot go to shops and markets to buy their daily necessities. E-commerce has become a light of hope in their busy life. Social media is the survival method of various reputed business organizations or small businessmen to promote their salable products to buyers.

To reap the benefits of this e-commerce, many unemployed youths are currently turning to entrepreneurship. As a result, many people are now turning to online businesses and seeing the face of success. We need to accept that the excessive use of social media is causing adverse changes in our real lives and creating a massive barrier to connecting with our family members, relatives, and friends. It's best to sit up front and talk to anyone. However, due to the excessive addiction to social media, we are more comfortable exchanging thoughts virtually.

But the reality is that our dependence on technology constantly pushes us away from real life and makes us mechanized. Basically, according to the scriptures of every religion, the infiltration of distorted thoughts and ideas by axing at the roots of the traditional customs-sociology-truth-beautiful-welfare-pleasure-based culture-culture-tradition is facing a profound challenge to social media. Now is the time to think about what the generation will get into the lie-deceit-fraud-incoherence equation.

Hiren Pandit: Columnist and researcher.