Millennium Post

Tweet a social change? Or rather, don't

Tweet a social change? Or rather, dont
While Twitter once saved lives in the tragic moments after the Mumbai blasts – the 'microblogging' site seems to have signed, sealed and delivered Abhishek Manu Singhvi's case.

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." - V (V for Vendetta)

(V here is paraphrasing John Basil Barnhill - "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.")

Social networking was on an all-time high when it managed to give hope and facilitate rescue operations in moments when cell phone networks collapsed and lives were at stake. Through constant tweets - survivors in Mumbai let others know of their whereabouts, circulated information regarding rescue operations. Re-tweeting saved another handful of lives, friends and family were united.

Social networking had brought about a social revolution. People from all over the world united on the medium to fight for what was right, support it, make information about it available so as everyone, everywhere would know. Awareness was once the redeeming mantra of social networking.

But over time – the free Blackberry messenger made it easy for the rioters in London to propagate violence throughout the streets. With - 'Justice for Mark Duggan' as a perfect guise, looting, plundering and destruction of public property became rampant on the British streets.

So while we can connect with millions to get the right kind of help and circulate the required information – on the other hand – a bad idea, information that is potentially damaging circulates with double the speed. So on one hand we have the boon of being able to connect with the world with the click of a tab and on the other we had the ticking bomb that could disrupt lives with one easy published post.

Who doesn't like a scandal?

Clearly – India takes pride in morally policing everyone. Politicians top the agenda list on this one. So when Congress spokesperson – Abhishek Manu Singhvi's 'sex' CD surfaced – the party did all that they could to stop the hazy footage from reaching the masses. The Chairperson of Parliament Standing Committee on Law and Justice called the CD a scandal and he was asked to not attend party meetings with immediate effect.

The party that has held the country by its leash for a good few years and are currently staggering in the face of opposition (the Delhi MCD polls defeat? The washout in UP?) - could have slept a little better without another stain on them.

While the High Court passed the verdict that the CD could not be shown on any national forum – a crusader of the masses (as he chooses to pose as) Tejinder singh Bagga went ahead and uploaded a clip from the controversial footage on a site very similar to Twitter.

And as expected – the video went viral. So while on one hand a few saw it as a breach in privacy – some others took vicarious pleasure in bad mouthing Singhvi. Even before adequate time was given for party response – the respected spokesperson quit his post.

Was it the only way to deal with a scandal of a sex tape? Perhaps not – maybe matters could have been handled more delicately – after all it was consensual sex between two adults and who says politicians cannot engage in such an act?

Social networking is a faceless spirit - it does not take sides. It is made to support a cause or react strongly against one on the needs and requirements of the people who comprise it. And that is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of social networking. It is beyond all control. By the time whistle-blowers or watchdogs can get to work - the damage has been done.

Where do we draw the line? The front page of the papers once stated - "Govt wants to read your tweets, Facebook posts..." A section of that article read - "...In the terrorism-ridden world we live in, security demands will be intrusive. But that does not mean the intrusion can be all-pervasive. When there are detailed guidelines on phone tapping, there's no reason why similar guidelines shouldn't be applied to surveillance of social networking sites. The basic principle should be clear: it can't be a fishing expedition on the off-chance that some wrongdoing may be detected. Surveillance of a person's social networking activity should be allowed only where there is a prima facie case of criminal activity."

Tejinder Singh Bagga declared in an interview that he had uploaded the clip for the aam aadmi – who in his opinion had the right to know what their politicians were up to. He added a bit about how he is not scared of anything or anyone and he would, as he always does, apparently – work for the betterment of society.

You just made a man quit his job for having sex with his girlfriend.

Sorry people, we have shaken up governments. They will be watching us now.
Jhinuk Sen

Jhinuk Sen

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