Social Media-Crossing it’s boundaries

l  Usha Drukpa, Thimphu


The use of social media, especially face book (FB) as a platform for character assassination and “cold wars” has grown over the last few years. While there is a debate amongst the general public if social media policy should be strict or not, the recent spate of incidences where pictures of persons killed in accidents and other horrifying images has sparked the call for stringent policies.

Tandin Wangchu, a businessman, who saw the incident on September 22, 2017, when a woman was set on fire by her husband near the Coronation Park, said he was shocked seeing the post of the woman on FB. “I cannot assimilate the fact that our society has become very ugly. How can anyone post such horrifying images,” he said, underlining that concerned agencies should act before it is too late.

A tour operator also had the same to share. “I do not know which agencies are responsible for ensuring that social media is used productively. But it is really getting out of control,” he mentioned. After the “horrifying posts,” he browsed the Social Media Policy for the Royal Government of Bhutan which was adopted at the 95th Lhengye Zhungtshog, held on January 12, 2016.

The policy mentions about challenges that social media brings and spells that it can be used to spread material which defame, abuse or threaten others. It is also highlighted that children who use social media expose themselves to danger. “Social media encroaches on privacy – once information is posted to a social networking site, it is no longer private. It has also facilitated the spread of inappropriate content,” the policy says.

However, there is nothing concrete on punishments that would be meted out if one indulges in malicious acts. The policy’s rationale quotes the message of His Majesty, the Fourth King, during the introduction of television and the Internet on June 2, 1999.

“I would like to remind our youth that the television and the Internet provide a whole range of possibilities which can be both beneficial as well as negative for the individual and the society. I trust that you will exercise your good sense and judgment in using the Internet and television”.

The policy says: “Be considerate. Never post malicious, indecent, vulgar, obscene, misleading or unfair content about others, your organization, your friends or your competitors.” Apart from this there is nothing.

On anonymous accounts, Namgay, a civil servant said that forums which entertain malicious posts should be banned. “A ban may look bad. But if it is done for the nation’s interest, the government or responsible agencies should do it,” he said, adding that it is the responsibility of Bhutan Info- Com and Media Authority (BICMA), to crack the misuse of social media.

In less than a month some of the horrifying and disturbing pictures on social media posted were the death of a student of Singye School in a pond at Balatungchu Sarpang; picture of a excavator driver killed by the boulder at Trongsa; body of a man who was found dead near Namseling; picture of the woman set on fire by his husband; photo of a man hit by an arrow in Merak and photo of a woman mauled by a bear at Wangduephodrang.

The Journalist could not contact BICMA officials for their comments.

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