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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightSocial media freedom...

Social media freedom calls for collective resistance

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Social media freedom calls for collective resistance
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The question asked was whether Narendra Modi was a fascist. The answer “Mr Modi has been accused of implementing policies that some experts have characterized as fascist”. There are several factors underlying these allegations. BJP's Hindu nationalist ideology, its suppression of dissent, its use of violence against religious minorities etc are part of that. This is the answer given to the question a customer asked Google's artificial intelligence platform Gemini. As this surfaced on social media, Central Minister of State in charge of Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar posts a warning on X (Twitter) saying they are direct violations of Section 3(1)(b) of Intermediary Rules of the IT Act and also of several provisions of the criminal code. He then tags the post to the Ministry and Google, the owners of Gemini. Then news emerges that the Ministry was preparing to serve notice to Google. By that time, Gemini takes down the 'controversial' reply. But wasn't the action taken by the Ministry a more precise reply than the one given by Gemini, to the question whether the government was fascist? The Central government is given to using IT rules as a tool to censor social media. It will ask social media platforms to remove posts that disagree with the government or protest against them. Companies generally follow that order. An example of such anti-government posts being banned is the directive issued to X to remove posts of the farmers connected with the farmers' agitation in Delhi and the company acquiescing in.

Even the companies that own AI chatbots do not claim that the replies they give are correct. They have already made a disclaimer that they are in a testing phase. But at the same time, it is relevant to ask whether they can spread fakes with that reason. And the minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar has also raised that question. But the fact is that here the reply given by Gemini is not wrong. The reply given is not that Modi is a fascist, but that he implements policies which many experts allege to be fascist. It is not untrue that such allegations do exist. But the government which still got them removed, had not moved at all when purely racial and hate-mongering fake posts, coming from the Hindutva camp had spread. There have been numerous cases of the prime minister 'following' such social media accounts which propagate hate. There is no dispute that the complaints about chat bots spreading hate and harbouring discrimination are genuine. However, suppressing dissent in the pretence of preventing it is not the right course. It can also be verified how true the claims made by the government are in the official propaganda that appear as government advertisements during the run-up to the elections. The contention that falsehoods can pass if they are in favour of the government, and those despite being not falsehood cannot be allowed if they are against the government is unacceptable. Advocates of democracy have to come out against this stance. The job of the IT department has evolved into censoring social media. And rules keep coming in tune with that.

Social media platforms like Facebook and X were treated as forums of freedom of expression and as such catalysts of democracy. But in recent times, they are frittering away their value by giving in to the dictates of the government even without questioning them. When the ruling establishments try to make the debates and discussions inaccessible to the people through internet bans and unjust criminal cases, the social media firms have a binding to challenge them by using channels of law. It is laudable that when several tweets were banned in Karnataka, X approached the Karnataka High Court. However, the court ratified the government's stance that the decision of the review committee which reconsidered the ban could not make its decision public. An appeal against this decision is pending. The firm should be prepared to challenge even upto the level of the Supreme Court the 'sealed cover' decisions that totally lack transparency. And the aim of that should not only be getting a waiver of the fine of Rs 50 lakh. Transparency, which the Supreme Court had underlined in the Anuradha Bhasin case, is the foundation of media freedom and democracy. Neither the government nor the high courts should become party to diluting it. Now that the experience of Gemini also has raised a threat before the nation, social media freedom deserves more organised support. And that is a resistance to be jointly made by social media firms, democratic parties and the general public.

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TAGS:fascismEditorialRajeev Chandrasekharsocial media platformshate propagada
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