[Editorial] Conflict and a ‘settings change’ for social media

Quick revision mind map

Context

  • The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has brought multiple questions to the fore on the validity of international law.
  • Fingers have been pointed at the accepted norms of state behaviour.
  • Cyberspace is no alien to these questions, where ad hoc standard-setting has been practised as a norm for decades now.

What the editorial is about?

  • The lack of clear systems within social media companies that claim to connect the world is appalling. It is time that they should have learned from multiple instances, as recent as the Israeli use of force in Palestine.

Most probable and repeated topics of upsc prelims

What are the challenges faced by social media platforms in the context of a conflict?

  • In the context of conflict, social media platforms have multiple challenges that go unaddressed.

Content moderation

  • Content moderation remains a core area of concern, where, essentially, information warfare can be operationalized and throttled.
  • Their sheer magnitude and narrative-building abilities place a degree of undeniable onus on them.

Institutional capacity

  • After years of facing and acknowledging these challenges, most social media giants are yet to create institutional capacity to deal with such situations.

Amplification of content on other platforms

  • Additionally, they also act as a conduit for further amplification of content on other platforms.
  • Major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter also provide space for extremist views from fringe platforms, where the degree of direct relation to the user generating such content is blurred.

Misinformation and disinformation

  • Misinformation and disinformation are thorny challenges to these platforms.
  • Algorithmic solutions are widely put to use to address them.
  • These include identification of content violative of their terms, reducing the visibility of content deemed inappropriate by the algorithm, and in the determination of instances reported to be violative of the terms by other users.
  • More often than not in critical cases, these algorithmic solutions have misfired, harming the already resource-scarce party.

Safety of users

  • The operational realities of these platforms require that the safety of users be prioritized to address pressing concerns, even at the cost of profits.

What are the lessons for India from these instances?

Opportunity for India

  • The lack of coherent norms on state behaviour in cyberspace as well as the intersection of business, cyberspace, and state activity is an opportunity for India.

A new track of conversations for Indian diplomats

  • Indian diplomats can initiate a new track of conversations here which can benefit the international community at large.
  • India should ensure that it initiates these conversations through well-informed diplomats.

Domestic regulatory framework

  • It is necessary to reassess the domestic regulatory framework on social media platforms.
  • Transparency and accountability need to be foundational to the regulation of social media platforms in the information age.

Way Forward

  • It is in our national interest and that of a rule-based global polity that social media platforms be dealt with more attention across spheres than with a range of reactionary measures addressing immediate concerns alone.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. A clear protocol that governs social media platforms is a must given their interaction with global public life in critical situations. Analyze. (250 Words, 15 Marks)
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