Social Media Isn’t Authentic, You Say. But What About The Mainstream Media?
Ihsan Ali Khan in this article argues that social media is gradually becoming more credible as mainstream media fails to cope with the intense level of pressures from the state and the media owners.
When social media was introduced, the very first response of digital media critics was that this platform isn’t a verified source of information. People can publish whatever they want to. The content on social media can get viral in minutes. The videos of individuals, without their consent, can ruin their futures. This was, and still remains, a genuine criticism about social media. It is truly a mess when it comes to fake news and propaganda.
I also used to be a critic of social media, specifically Facebook. I witnessed many fake news spreading and circulating on Facebook that people would easily believe. I have seen people who have lost their lives because of Facebook. Other than these life threatening issues, psychological and mental health issues are included in the list of its curses.
Time changed and I eventually got to review my opinion. Social media is gradually catching up with the mainstream media. It has become the voice of victims. Back in 2016, it was the first time I realised the importance and significance of social media. I was an intern with a journalist working at a mainstream news channel. He saw news about some incident on his Facebook wall, called the person who had published it and after verification, the news transferred to mainstream media channel’s screen within few minutes.
Pakistani media is controlled. Everyone with basic understanding of media and politics knows it. People are watching exactly what the policymakers or agenda setters want them to watch. This is what we call brainwashing. This brainwashing never seemed to stop until social media developed its own opinion leaders.
Now, people can have the other side of the story too. This is the reason it has turned to be a nightmare for the oppressors. One can dictate media houses with a single phone call or press release but cannot control millions of social media users. This is where censorship can’t work. The effort to force people into self-censorship is still there but it’s not meeting any considerable success.
We have witnessed hundreds of news reports peddled by mainstream news channels that were proved outright baseless by social media users. Many victims of rape, violence, unfairness get justice because of the trends being set on social media. Social media users have forced governments to withdraw several decisions in the recent past. Reality of dozens of censored news got exposed because of social media.
Let’s discuss recent examples of the active and strong role of social media. A teenager got raped and brutally murdered. Victim’s father kept trying for five days to lodge a simple FIR but police didn’t register it. This didn’t stop here. Right after the dead body was received, Islamabad polyclinic refused to carry out victim Farishta’s postmortem. The family members had to protest outside the hospital in order to get the postmortem done.
Yet, one news channel was trying to blur the facts because the case also involved Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leadership. When no one was coming to the victim family’s help, one should have the courage to appreciate the two parliamentarians for raising their voice against the culprits, whatever their political affiliations might be. But the said news channel kept defending state’s flaws, and a rapist. This line of reporting was strongly condemned by social media users. A trend calling for the boycott of the channel was run on Twitter.
Another example is of the recent Waziristan incident. The role of social media was plausible as it busted every single lie posted on the platform while the mainstream media was toeing a completely one-sided line.
Yes, there are flaws with the social media too. But those flaws can be removed with the passage of time. Recently, according to CNN, Facebook removed 2.2 billion fake accounts in only three months. This is a new ray of hope that sooner or later, social media will become an authentic and safe platform for its users.