Social Media: Sword or Shield for Social Justice
-By Dakshata Sakpal*
Social justice implies that all benefits and privileges in the society should be shared by all its members. If there is any structural inequality towards any particular section, the government should take affirmative action in eliminating such inequalities. As researcher Patrick McCormick has said, “There is not even consensus as to whether democracy, equality, unity or the common good is the primary foundation on which to create the edifice of justice”. As in Indian Constitution maker tell us Justice has always evoked ideas of equality, of proportion of compensation. Equity signifies equality. Rules and regulations, right and righteousness are concerned with equality in value. In short justice is another name of liberty, equality and fraternity.”
The world is transforming with the help of technological innovations, it is accelerating the rate at which ideas, relationships, and information are shared. As such, social media is revolutionizing communication and access to information on both a national and global scale. Mass distribution and the ability to effortlessly share information has influenced many facets of modern life, changing the way we think about, connect to, and engages with social justice and activism.
Social media: Since the drastic expansion of the Internet, users access digital media from their devices in daily basis. Social media now become as integral parts of one’s life starting from morning newspapers to the various digital activities has been taken places throughout the world. Apart from entertainment use now it has been emerged as a tool for social justice and activism.
Social justice: Throughout the Industrial Revolution and subsequent democratic movements in Europe, social justice as a term emerged in the early 19th century, aimed at establishing more egalitarian communities and remedying capitalist exploitation of human labour. Early social justice activists focused mainly on money, land, and wealth distribution due to the clear stratification between rich and poor during this period.
By the mid-20th century social justice had grown to include the environment, race, gender, and other causes and manifestations of injustice from being solely concerned with economics to include other areas of social life. At the same time, the social justice measure evolved from being calculated and implemented exclusively by the nation-state (or government) to include a universal human element. Applying a justice angle to media policy first requires accepting that the media today are social in a totally different way than traditional media was. It requires a transition from the governance of the communication process, as we know it, to the governance of sociality, a transition that allows us to step away from the utilitarian model.
Social justice and Indian constitution: The constitution makers in India were strongly affected by the feeling of social equality and social justice at the time of the independence. The terms, like Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic, were inserted in the Preamble for the same cause. The word justice is protected by various clauses of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles within the Constitution of India. India’s Constitution has solemnly guaranteed its entire people social, economic and political justice. The Constitution also included freedom of expression of speech, belief, religion and worship, equality of status and opportunity and the promotion of the dignity of the person and the unity of the community among all the fraternity. Through adding some specific clauses, the Constitution has sought to resolve the seemingly contradictory arguments of socio-economic justice and of individual freedom and constitutional rights.
Social media activism:
Various platforms are used by people to start out campaigns for supporting major issues like mental health, unemployment, freedom of speech , sexual assault etc It is also seen as a platform to seek justice individually. The victims often see it as a medium to share their story and expect some form of justice. Using these platforms peoples get connected globally ,sharing their views and information regarding the issue it became a new tool for the social awareness and social justice.
There are some movements carried out on such social networking platform globally:
1. Black Lives Matter: The Black Lives Matter movement began as an online community that worked to combat anti-black racism and police violence that targets African Americans in particular, using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Through the use of the hashtag and social media platforms, the online community has been able to organize, mobilize, and improve its visibility, eventually becoming an organization with more than 40 chapters that work to support black lives. The hashtag increases in use during events like protests, demonstrations, speeches, and national discussions, or in response to news stories that affect the black community. Utilizing social media and tools such as hashtags encouraged information sharing, helped spread awareness, and provided a space online for the Black Lives Matter community to form and organize.
2. #MeToo: The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement) is a source of solidarity for women of all backgrounds who have experienced sexual harassment. The movement focuses on the experiences of sexual violence survivors from all walks of life. By telling and sharing stories, those who engage with the movement hope to show how common sexual harassment is. The MeToo movement originated in 2006, but reached the mainstream in 2017 when multiple high-profile actresses opened up about their sexual harassment experiences in the film industry and began sharing the hashtag #MeToo. The popularization of the topic instigated an understanding of the Me Too movement, sexual harassment, and assault, hoping to reduce tolerance of abusive behaviors and increase support for victims.
The other side:
The social media provides us new dimension of awareness but at same time it has lack of accountability. In the new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, Tristan Harris, ethicist, computer scientist and former Google employee, articulates a fundamental issue — the existential threat to society isn’t technology itself, but its ability to bring out the worst in society. Changing this challenges the very business model of the platforms, which is focused on monetisation of information. One danger when approaching the field of social media is the possibility of being overwhelmed by the sheer abundance and diversity of the communicative practices they channel. They are often used as a means of representation, a tool of ‘citizen journalism’, employed to elicit ‘external attention.’ They are used as a means of organisation of collective action, and more specifically, as a means of mobilisation in the crucial task of ‘getting people on the streets’. Social media has the power to reach the masses and distribute information, which in turn has resulted in everyone acting as a watchdog, scrutinizing the powerful and exposing mismanagement and corruption. Several cyber-crimes, defamation, invasion of privacy, incitement of offences, racist remarks, stalking, abuse, hacking, harassment and many more can be easily committed through social media and once such objectionable content is uploaded, it becomes viral and consequently, very difficult to contain. Hence, the importance of the State regulating social media also cannot be denied.
Social Media Fake News in India:
A study analyzes 419 fake news items published in India, a fake-news-prone country, to identify the major themes, content types, and sources of social media fake news. The results show that fake news shared on social media has six major themes: health, religion, politics, crime, entertainment, and miscellaneous; eight types of content: text, photo, audio, and video, text & photo, text & video, photo & video, and text & photo & video; and two main sources: online sources and the mainstream media. Health-related fake news is more common only during a health crisis, whereas fake news related to religion and politics seems more prevalent, emerging from online media. Text & photo and text & video have three-fourths of the total share of fake news, and most of them are from online media: online media is the main source of fake news on social media as well.
Rules and law for social media in India: Social Media is a powerful means of exercising ones right to freedom of speech and expression. However, it is also been increasingly used for illegal acts which has given force to the Government’s attempts at censoring social media. On one hand there is a need to stop all the objectionable and illegal contents being uploaded on social media while on the other hand there are legitimate fears of violation of civil rights of people as an inevitable consequence of censorship. The proper regulation of the social media which does not violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India. An analysis of the existing IT laws shows that there is unaccountable and immense power in the hands of the Government while dealing with security in the cyber space. Even then, it is not sufficient to check the misuse of social media. Hence, a specific legislation is desirable to regulate social media
The active link between social media and social justice can be created for a more direct impact and required change. A mechanism that can be developed which would help to promote social media to become a process of achieving social justice. Social media sensitization is also imperative to prevent it from changing lives for worse than good. Whether it in its current form tool of justice or not is not clear but with necessary capacity building measures in place it can if not fully, at least partially act in the capacity of a tool of social justice. Social injustice is a critical problem in Indian society. The analysis of a society’s social stratification based on either caste or class, is primarily concerned with the definition of inequality. The issue of social justice is affected various developmental policy and social welfare programme. Due to lack of social efficiency society as a whole suffers a lot of disadvantages. With the help of social media platforms issue is not just get attended but with increase of people awareness about that issue ethical and moral solutions which hold the basic idea of social justice for people without any discriminations. Social media raises the voices of the people, help to provide social justice.
- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual
- A Guide to Activism in the Digital Age, http://maryville.edu
- “Seek the meek, seek the just”: Social media and social justice by Amit M. Schejter , Noam Tirosh
- ESSAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA by Ms. Ayushi Jaiswal, Bharati Law Review, April-June, 2015