During the recent Jat agitation in Haryana, it was amusing to see the one prompt action that the State Government took – blocking the internet services in the affected districts. As per the authorities and concerned spokesperson, the action was taken immediately so that rumours are not spread, as this could have led to the situation going out of hands. The entire idea of maintaining ‘law and order’ in these affected areas seemed to be confined to stopping of the internet services only. As it turned out, the concept of stopping the rumours from spreading by blocking the internet services was a big example of Myopic Thinking of Indian authorities. This move not only proved ineffective but instead, it caused more chaos. Let us see how:
Verification of Facts Stopped
By stopping the social media, apps and internet the government ruled out every possibility of verifying facts on a real-time basis. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and other mediums act as a channel to be in touch with your family and friends continuously. Besides, these social media websites are widely used platform to fetch information, reduce isolation and feel more connected.
Service and Economy Blocked
When you block internet, social media and messaging app such as WhatsApp, you cripple your own administrative services and economy at large. Many banking transactions, trading, travelling and other services depend on Internet and several businesses take place via WhatsApp and FB. All of it experiences a hindrance. Subho Ray, President of the Internet and Mobile Association of India, had reportedly said that some of the telecom companies had offered to send out messages to promote peace and harmony in the affected areas. If this could have been initiated, it would have possibly made some significant contribution.
Possibility of controlling anarchy and disorder Stopped
When we stop the Internet, Social Media and Messaging Apps on the mobile there remains no mode of cross-checking of the facts, it could have backfired by creating chaos and confusion with false word of mouth rumours. The bottomline is when mass mode of communication is restricted and general citizens are not able to get reassuring text messages from nearby areas or updates from their near ones then you decrease the control of law and order, the situation becomes more susceptible to disorder.
Right to Free Speech Stopped
When there remains other possibilities of spreading unprecedented rumours, then Social Media can’t be accused of being the only medium that threatens regional peace. Suspecting it as the only cause, and hence putting a ‘stop’ will never yield any results. There are three main aspects of freedom of expression: discussion, advocacy and incitement. Upon reaching the level of incitement, the Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution can be considered and reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech can be imposed. Stopping Internet connection from a region is similar to putting restrictions on publications of media by claiming that publication of circulates data that may lead to more confusion and riots.
Communication Can’t be Stopped
Stopping Internet and social media to put at end to all rumours is almost impossible. There are many offline messaging mediums, apps that do not need internet to create private mesh networks. In fact, other media of sharing data anonymously are already in use. The bottom line is, technology has spread like wildfire and there is no way technology and communications can be stopped.
At the end, a modern Indian citizen would only want to express that it is high time our authorities see the upside of technology and use it in their stride by utilising its benefits to combat such upheavals and social tensions when time arrives and not put a restriction and take the reverse route to evolution.