All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down
"All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down" –this quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche beautifully describes the power of words attained by humans and the limit of 140 characters by Twitter in expressing thoughts, adds brevity to it. That is the nature of social world, our virtual world. It is constantly adding something to our lives.
As written on the wrapper,
The world of social media is unfolding unthinkable landscapes. It has made thought explicit, ended distances and rejuvenated the world of exchanging thoughts and emotions. Its the ultimate wonderland of freedom, the Utopian freedom square so to speak.
The physical barriers which existed when talking in person has taken a flight, so nameless faceless unbound conversations without immediate repercussions can take center-stage.
Specially, thought touted as free to all public square, massive special interest and troll groups funded by political parties have taken most of the space. The platform is designed to create an illusion of empowerment to share your inner emotions without inhibitions and then harness or milk those emotions by selling that as a data point to marketers or affiliates.
Have a doubt, ever wondered why certain nameless faceless fakers like below can have 49k followers in 4 months??
Don't wonder anymore - They are part of and paid for the same political cell, directly or indirectly with tax payers money. And twitter though claiming imaginary tech superiority keeps them going and running. Its valuations or illusion of valuation is created by these accounts. These are the accounts behind the "hashtags" you see trending and sing about the power of social media.
Wake up, its as make belief and fake as the politicians paying for all this.
But the whole concept of twitter is of short, concise one step thought process, which makes it very easy to off-load the load of any kind, creating a cyclone of garbage which revolves so fast, with right marketing it gives an illusion of bringing us closer in the virtual world, but actually distancing us from our real lives.
Likes, follow, comments have replaced compassion and empathy. The character limit of twitter may have given us brevity but we now lack wisdom of old real days.
Like other networks, twitter also follows the game of numbers. Number of tweets, re-tweets, followers are often considered certificate of the authenticity of the information. Julian glover, former lead writer of the Guardian had expressed his concern and said
easy dissemination and freedom to write anything has only exacerbated the shift of expressing curt, impulsive opinions and discontent, and he didn’t seem happy with the present sights.
That has been a scenario lately. Feuds and fights over Twitter have become a common show. Even people don’t think much about the information credibility before circulating it further. Whatever is served before them, more tweets by these "hashtag" makers, is considered true.
Recently, after the successful surgical strikes from India on Pakistan militants base camps, a tweet from Barack Obama congratulating Indian Army went viral. Though, it was later found that it was a work of Photoshop tool that fabricated the tweet. Fake Tweet dated 29 september 2016 with twitter handle @BarackObama got 25000 retweets and 15946 favourites.
Sadly enough, Social media platforms like twitter are now used by mainstream media for their news breaking and publishing.
Media channels are no more bound in the time slots for presenting their exclusive material. This real time platform supposedly facilitates them reach their audience instantly. Unverified information often strums on human emotions, and after "making viral" becomes viral.
Recently, Firstpost wrongly quoted Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayawati speaking over the demonetization. In the heat of the moment and perhaps to stay a step ahead of their competitors, firstpost a mainstream media house owned by IBN Live quoted:
Later, firstpost was sincere enough to apologize with the atoned statement. Firstpost, an hour and a half later, released new tweet stating the atoned statement.
But the point of concern is that corrected tweet registered mere 90 re-tweets as compared to the incorrect tweet that had marked 170 re-tweets. We need to see that it often happens that if at first something is out on twitter and if catches attention, it spreads like a wildfire. And if contains misleading or incorrect information it may cause the damaged that may never fix.
Mainstream media journalists, unlike earlier days, don’t jostle anymore through crowd to get the unsaid, would work for weeks to mine about the story before writing it. The days of shoe leather reporting are gone.
In these days of Yellow Journalism, short lived stories have taken over for public records and archived news. Media houses to stay competitive with nameless faceless propaganda houses for public opinion and attention have succumbed to same impulses.
The trend to build news for twitter started by some very enterprising news story tellers. Suddenly a civil debate started looking like troll wars. Less worthy journalists followed suit, tried to copy and started the fight to bottom. And editorial due diligence took back seat and died a slow death at least in these free form digital consent manufacturing format of entertainment media confused as news.
See the problem is, its tough to find the hashtag from a few days before which created public opinion about something, you need to request twitter and there is a whole process behind it. Try finding any of the hash tags run by Arnab Goswami's show, you will be surprised. But the effects of it, the consent manufacturing, the impact of the story remains in public psyche.
And that's where we loose the third Piller (Press and Media) of democracy.
Politicians now rely on other sources like twitter, facebook, google etc. that may lack credibility. E.g is below re-tweet by Delhi Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. The tweet was about a suicide in bank which was related to a robbery attempt which Mr. Chief Minister without checking for authenticity (a common practice among Indian politicians) re-tweeted.
Recently, twitter accidentally promoted a tweet from a white supremacist group that started the outrage on the social media platform. White supremacist group ‘New order’ had tweeted- "The United States Was Founded as a White People's Republic." The tweet included the hashtag #WhiteAmerica. The tweet was reported by a Los Angeles-based writer and musician Ariana Lenarsky who took a screenshot of the ad posted by a white supremacist group, New Order. Cofounder of twitter Jack Dorsey tweeted his apology saying-"We made a mistake here and we apologize. Our automated system allowed an ad promoting hate. Against our policy. We did a retro and fixed!"
The point to be given a thought is that, information feeding is not gate kept. We may atone or undone the wrongly quoted tweet or even may close down the twitter account(s) but who would foot the cost of the loss?
Soon after this incident, twitter updated its policies over hate speech. Billionaire Mark Cuban had tweeted at Dorsey- "Twitter doesn't understand its hate problem" and called its new tools “meaningless”. Jack Dorsey, while defending twitter’s new update tweeted- "Progress; not perfection. We did a necessary reset and now going to improve every day. We're learning faster."
Twitter has also voiced the ones with less volume and substance. Engaging in battles, cursing, baseless allegations are common scenes. Recently Janta Dal united voiced their protest against BJP over buying of lands in different parts of Bihar. They alleged BJP over twitter
The biggest advantage to the allegations over twitter is that they work without proofs.
Politicians in present age have found a way to establish connect over twitter with immediate effect. They are majorly disclosing their official thoughts and processes that were once out through press releases or other official PR activities. If we look at the twitter accounts of Former American President Mr.Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we see that it is mentioned that there accounts are managed by their team and their personally tweeted tweets carry their signatures. But If we look at the twitter accounts of PM Narendra Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal we find the number of tweets they have done is fascinating and they don't have such information about who manages their account. PM narendra modi has terrific numbers of 13.4 thousand tweets and kejriwal has startling 16.6 thousand tweets.
As they have not mentioned we consider that no one manages their account on their behalves. If they are the operators of their account, then the number of tweets when converted to working hours, the resulting numbers are mind boggling.
These numbers suggest if they are using this much time in tweeting, then how are they managing official works? Or if they have a team managing their accounts; that usually happens, then who is bearing the cost of it?
Fake information and outrage over twitter is suppressing common man’s voice and misleading the gullible. The finest example can be of recent US elections. Whether it is US election or Brexit, the feud and the information cloud over twitter and facebook decided the course of action.
Fake information of Hilary Clinton and nuclear deal trended vigorously and received maximum attention. Barack Obama, just before elections, was bit upset of social media for the thought cultivation of people. Similar thing happened in India when at the time of controversies in JNU, JNU student was hailed as terrorist and anti-nationalist for days without proof. Similar thing happened amidst Kashmir tension when images from Syria were trending as the situation prevailing in Kashmir.
For every link you click on Twitter you are likely to be shown five other similar links below it. And don’t be surprised if at least one of these is from a news source you have not heard of before. Founders of Twitter and other social media platform may say that their companies are tech companies and not media or arbiters of truth(recent statement by Mr. Zuckerberg), but the truth is for a lot of people social media, be it Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp is now a source of news.
And it seems that fake news has an edge on engagement, fine tuned on the target's emotions using cutting edge tech running on advance science around human psychology.
This opinion piece is published under clean the internet campaign. Internet, once a powerful tool of sharing information between trusted sources is now hijacked by massive digital monopolies backed by vested political interests. Now tedious democratic processes are under major threat by smoother but very expensive ways of unbridled, unregulated campaigns, targeting basic human frailties. The fight to bottom between digital political cells are now run at the cost of India's future, undermining our very sustainability.
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Authors of this article come from digital technology, data science, journalistic background and are qualified to make a commentary on the subject.