Is Social Media a threat to Privacy?

September 16, 2018

At the 8th Colombo Defence Seminar, coordinated by the Sri Lanka Army, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying, “Disruptive new Media as a threat, and such threats must be countered as the nature of warfare is shifting from physical to on-line, owing to the increase use of computers’ electromagnetic spectrum and artificial intelligence with cyber faced systems becoming an extremely demanding task”. In the innovative use of technology, he alleged, attackers would thrive.

There is a certain truth in the Premier’s statement as the ‘Social Media’, such as Facebook and Twitter, and the Internet, have today become sources of non-traditional threats, globally leading towards disruptive cradles. If one were to consider an advanced country such as America, many are of the opinion – including Hilary Clinton herself, that her downfall at the last US Presidential election was much attributed (but not yet proved) to Media coverage in favour of President Donald Trump, in connivance with the Russians!

In the context of freedom of expression, there are no international regulations to control, curb, or punish when someone crosses the line or when one castigates another person on social media. It is a common occurrence, particularly on social media, to view photographs of well-known actresses faces modified and changed with pornographic material.

Many girls have been misled, and finally their lives have been devastated by male perverts pretending to be girls on Facebook. Politicians who were once satirized in cartoons, as caricature, have begun to appear on Facebook and YouTube with graphical movements of hip-hop dancing images. However, when it comes down to national security strategies of any country, drastic solutions to overcome such threats become compulsory.

Pointing fingers

When an accusing finger is pointed at the Media as a threat, each and every journalist should not be castigated and categorized and placed into one basket. Of course, in every sphere there are rotten apples. In certain instances, journalists have been exposed as being partisan and misrepresented facts due to indecorous activities on their part for various reasons.

Media is generally identified as a ‘double-edged sword’, where ‘with a stroke of a pen’any person can be either elevated or degraded. Social media, simultaneously, is able to offer unprecedented opportunities to express public annoyances, as a means of drawing much needed attention to the rulers, on any issue. At its nastiest, it also offers ‘everyone’ an opportunity to share a collective outrage without reflection.


What has happened in Sri Lanka today is that people have entertained politicians and elected them with hope and expectation, but when such hopes are shattered, people have turned their frustration into falsifying dignity.In such circumstances, it becomes natural for them to seek social media, internet, YouTube or email, as the only weapon to dispel their vexations. In such a backdrop, could public action be treated as “a threat and must be countered”? As the saying goes, ‘there’s no smoke without fire!’

Barring a set of megalomaniacs, who get a kick out of insulting another willy-nilly, just for the ‘kick’ of it, any group or a website attempting to pull skeletons out of the rulers’ cupboards for public knowledge is bound to get derided and blamed by those who had come to power wearing saintly masks.

Sri Lankan Administrations (both present and the past) cannot get away from this grip. There have been several incidents of vengeance ‘surfing’ out to the fore whenever rulers fell out of line and got exposed by the Media. In this regard, the topical action by the Yahapalanaya regime of banning a website known as ‘Lankaenews’ is a case in point.

This could be due to the fact that the Government either not having a stringent strategy to deal with what is claimed to be ‘disruptive effects’, or there has to be a certain amount of truth in such disclosures.  Otherwise, the easiest thing would have been to take legal action against the website. Today taking legal action, claiming damages on defamation amounting to multi-million rupees, have become the latest fashion in this country.

Role of the Media

Media is made up of journalists of all kinds. A journalist’s role should be to encourage what is sound in man, and to discourage often by criticizing what is dishonourable or improper.

The responsibility of a journalist has to be done in the belief that two processes are harmonizing because, if what is exposed is false, then the reader too tends to get a negative feedback.
When a journalist consumes much energy on establishing the positive within the hearts of sympathetic individuals, then he/she automatically disburses much energy on combating the negative.

Each time the journalist comes up with a negative political comment, he/she is well advised not to point out failings in political rulership, because to point out failings in rulership cannot readily be granted as always necessary. To pronounce a diagnosis to a patient is not the same as curing him yet, if certain tests are satisfied, criticism becomes helpful and necessary to cure the disease. Hatred or bitterness in a journalist injures his/her best aims and defiles what he/she writes.

It cannot be easily obscured as an attack actuated by bitterness and may reveal critic’s weakness more than the target. An embittered journalist is, therefore, advised to postpone a proposed critical piece until the resentfulness has been cleared with an honest effort. But if the writer is provoked by a wish to cast an image of courage, his/her criticism would again be impaired.However, if the writer feels his/her criticism is called for in the public interest, and he/she still remains silent, the journalist become controlled by fear.

An objective journalist has a duty towards his vocation, conscience, truth, and his country to throw a light on injustices. How can the Rulers be helped, if this is not done? How could the Rulers find hope, if no one does it?

The general public is delighted when a writer places people’s unhappiness into words. Surely, when it happens, it has to be to supply what is missing, but not to steal away from the battlefield. Such action would amount to be an error on the part of a productive journalist if he/she allows pointing out failings to become his/her chief activity, no matter how provocative or painful the situation around the journalist is, because a journalist’s task should be not only to warn the Rulers and the Ruled about mistakes done, but to help in devising a just society.

The voluntary silence on the part of any sensible journalist, at the same time, would be spiritual suicide, because mere reticence on his/her part will undermine the very foundation of the brotherhood of journalists and Media alike.


pic credit: google photos

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