While we were trying to recover from the shocks of the Chang Debsi forest fire tragedy which claimed four lives, a video showing the burnt bodies of two men went viral on social media groups. It was insensitive, to say the least.
In the next few days came a video in which a man bashed up another man dressed in monk’s robe who appeared quite drunk. The man is a villager living in Dagana and has been detained by the police.
In both the cases, it appears that individuals posted the videos for the members in their closed groups on social media and did not intend to post them for public viewing. However, a member of the groups leaked the video on social media.
Social media has been described as “an essential tool for hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide and a defining element of the Internet generation”. It is also an enabler of social, economic, and political change.
Many users use social media on a daily basis to interact, network, and share information. Social media is also widely used to express views and opinions on social, political and economic issues, among others. The platform provides a whole range of possibilities which can be both beneficial as well as negative for the individual and society.
With more than 90 percent of people being active members of at least one social media in the country and a high penetration rate, mainly supported by widespread ownership of smartphones and greater access to the internet, such insensitive contents can cause emotional disturbances and harm.
According to a survey conducted by the Bhutan Media Foundation in 2021, spam and indecent posts are the two most reported negative individual experiences on social media. Increasingly, we see such disturbing videos and pictures on our social media platforms.
One reason could be that about three-fourths of Bhutanese social media users have little or no awareness of privacy and ethical issues.
“Due to limited knowledge and awareness about ethical, privacy and safety issues, and increasing incidences of exposure to insidious or negative content, social media users may be highly vulnerable to negative experiences and cybercrime,” the BMF study pointed out.
Adding to the problem in our context is that there is an equal number of children and youth on social media gaining access to such contents.
Punishing the culprits alone would not solve the problem. We know it does not work.
A mix of regulation and greater advocacy about social media ethics, privacy and security have become necessary to promote a safe and healthy use of social media.