Taking some pages out of history, the discussion on content regulation has always been contentious. Speeches, posters, publications, radio, television or more recently the internet have always evoked strong reactions. This is primarily due to the fact that content regulation is considered a violation of the basic human right of freedom of speech. This is the right on which civilizations, societies, and even governments are built and is enshrined in the basic tenets of a democracy.
Social media has been one of the main reasons to fuel the internet penetration in India and subsequently has played an important role in socio-economic development of the country. India is admired globally for upholding the strong thread of democracy even in such a diverse environment. Even going beyond the moral dilemma, reports have estimated that India will create twice as much digital content as compared to the rest of the world.
With this sort of data being generated and a significant part of which resides in social networks, the question is whether content should be regulated but how would it be regulated given the technical complexities around the process. Content regulation as a general practice is already being followed by many of us and a solution to this is an emerging concern. Self Regulation - Such rules--both formal and informal--always existed and are practiced daily by all of us.
As a practice the concept of self-regulation cannot function without the support of government and public figures. There are issues that these authorities are tackling which are not just limited to political caricatures. The problem is much bigger and self regulating responsible netizens can help the government to a larger extent. Governments should, through education and public information, raise awareness among users about self-regulatory mechanisms such as the means to filter and block content and to communicate complaints about Internet content.
There should be a detail and transparent guideline on the social media. The civil society and the policymakers should unanimously agree on anti-society and anti-constitutional content. But these regulations should always be 'reasonable and justified restrictions' and must not have a conflict with the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution.
Being a part of a larger international community of users and providers of information, we are at a theatrical turning point. We already know that the Internet has the power to change the way people live, by offering astonishing opportunities for enhancing skills and providing a road to development. Further to that internet have unique capabilities to remove borders and make this world a single community.
With such access and collaboration there could be issues in the future as well. But instead of fearing it and remain status quo it is advisable to change with time. This changing time will see a more responsible citizen behavior which has given birth to the 'Arab Spring' and Kony 2012.
After-all, the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi did say "I want freedom for the full expression of my personality." Self regulation is the key for a free and responsible social media and internet as a whole.
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