Three men are arrested for allegedly circulating pornographic videos of a woman, reportedly taken more than five years ago. Besides such defamatory posts, what is also worrying is the uncontrolled exchanges taking place among Bhutanese citizens on social media, particularly derogatory and personalised comments.
It is a serious problem which all societies are dealing with today, some of them spending billions of dollars to try and control the trend.
Many argue that open discussion is a good development. In the past public information and discussion was a monopoly of media practitioners, including journalists, and that the real views of the public were not adequately presented. With the coming of social media, people could write their own views and get wide distribution.
Blogging has become popular and some bloggers are sharing important information that conventional news organisations do not. Bloggers who are qualified professionals are able to discuss issues with great depth.
Citizen journalism is picking up as well. Many raise issues with development activities in the various social media groups drawing the attention of authorities and concerned officials. In some instances, they have been successful in resolving the issues
Unfortunately, quality exchange is rare. Social media has proven to be an effective forum for gossip and rumour. Much of the exchange can do more harm than good as users take advantage of its wide reach to malign others. Hiding behind anonymity, some of the discussions are literally being dragged through the dirt.
Every individual who has access to social media can write his or her views and the average reader today cannot tell credible views from people distorting information. So the impact is enhanced.
The world shares a dilemma. It is neither possible nor desirable to block or ban sites. It often depends more on technical skills than laws.
But, while digital media portrays the image of a high-tech world that appears new, the basic values have not changed. Our behaviour is not new. Gossip, rumour, libel and defamation have always been a part of society, not because of social media, but because of our nature. Social media is neither a boon nor a bane by itself, it totally depends on how we use it. We cannot blame technology; we need to change our habits.
This takes us back to the need for education and awareness, the only long-term solution. And it is also important that, rather than just condemning negative trends, we adapt to the changing world and raise the quality of discussions.