As social media have turned out to be the tools of spreading rumours, media and IT experts think there is a necessity to make people, especially the youngsters, aware about mature digital lifestyle and increase their media literacy.
Besides, they said, a strong campaign is needed to be launched to make people understand the difference between rumours and truth and asses the validity of information being spread through Facebook, twitter, different apps and blogs.
The issue of social media abuse has come in the limelight once again as various false campaigns and rumours were carried out over the student movement for road safety. An actress was arrested and a number of less known online news outlets were sued by the cyber unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police for spreading rumours and fake news.
Contacted, former Chief Information Commissioner Prof Golam Rahman said some people are spreading false information and rumours using social media platforms with political or ill motives while some people doing the same simply for lack of awareness.
“People believe rumours when there is dearth of information or obstruction to free flow of information of the mainstream media,” said Golam Rahman, now a professor at Journalism and Mass Communication department of Daffodil University.
About some recent rumours on social media regarding the killing and rape of some demonstrating students, he said many people still believe those rumours as the mainstream TV channels could not properly broadcast live the attacks on students by miscreants.
He said the government must ensure the free flow of information of the mainstream media so that people do not get confused with rumours and false information.
Besides, Golam Rahman, also a former professor of Dhaka University’s Journalism department, said vigorous campaigns and discussions are needed to make people aware about how they can avoid rumours and how they should use the social media. “The mainstream media can play a vital role in this regard. “Teachers in educational institutions also can teach students how to use social media.”
Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar said people are using social media without having knowledge of how to deal with it. “Social media are being used across the globe as a communication tool. But the users must be responsible and literate.”
“A vested quarter is repeatedly trying to make their political gains by spreading propaganda and rumours using the Facebook,” he said.
The minister said the same quarter used social media as a propaganda tool during the trial of top war criminals, Hefajat’s agitation at Shapla Chattar, quota movement and students’ current movement for road safety.
Jabbar, also a noted IT expert, said people must know about digital lifestyle and be aware of its responsible use and protection.
Alongside people’s awareness, he said, the government must have technological capacity to tackle the abuse of technology. “That’s why we’re taking various steps in this regard.”
“I can give you good news that the Telecommunications Division has taken a around Tk 100-crore project on cyber security to enhance the government’s capability to check social media abuse using technology. We’ll monitor the social media and check rumours and find out its sources.”
Jabbar said the ICT Division is carrying out various campaigns to make people aware of justified use of social media. “We’ll intensify it further. We’re also now thinking of introducing a module on social media use in various trainings on ICT.”
Prof Fahmidul Haq of Dhaka University’s Mass Communication and Journalism department said increasing social media literacy is crucial to check the abuse of social media platforms. “We must make people aware to think before posting or sharing anything on the social media.”
He said the social media users should know their responsibility and how to use it. “An attitude or a habit must grow among people to cross-check the content of the social media so that they can ascertain the authenticity of any post before spreading or sharing it. A campaign is necessary for it”.
Besides, the media expert said the government and different socio-cultural organisations can arrange seminars, workshops and discussions to create mass awareness about responsible use of social media.
Ekushey TV CEO Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul also echoed Fahmid, saying social media literacy is important for discouraging people from spreading false campaigns or rumours on the social media.
He said the government should not interrupt the free flow of information of the mainstream media or regulate those to tackle the rumours on social media. “When people don’t get proper information from the mainstream media, they look for alternative media for information, and sometimes believe those.”
“Any false campaign or rumour will have to be dealt with authentic information. When people will get the right information from the mainstream media, they’ll trash the false information on social media,” the noted journalist said.