Freedom of Speech Vs Being Social Online

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As we discuss the virtual space in today’s world as essential platforms for networking, socializing, career, businesses etc., it has developed and grown as a space which is also home to millions of brains coming together and having conversations openly. And since all the users have the freedom to express at the online spaces, there is an ongoing debate on who should be barred from the social media platforms so as to ensure safety of the users.

Though filtering of users who are exploiting the social media spaces with illicit intentions can probably help in cleaning up the space, it is highly debatable. Banning users from social media has been at times stated as unconstitutional or as a barrier to freedom of speech.

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The argument is based on who to allow and who to restrict. One thing that should be clear here, is that banning registered offenders on social media is easy, but what needs to be considered is impersonation and fake profiling that is prevailing in the online spaces. We should look at methods which are constructive and where possibilities of implementation are high.

Second very important thing is to mark and remove the profiles/pages/digital existence of clear abusive/offensive profiles. The community standards of social media in any way must not allow straight away criminal profiles in the virtual world as it directly impacts the functioning of a common user to use the platforms safely.

As per the National Investigation Agency, every sixth cyber crime in India is committed through social media. Even the NCRB report reflected an increase of 70% in cyber crimes between 2013 and 2015 in India. These figures definitely push the law enforcement and policy agencies to look at social media as another breeding ground for criminal activities. But like any other communication channel, social media too faces issues as the users increase. And it’s a fact that there is no dearth of alternatives for the illicit intentions and activities.

It is important to take initiatives to clean the space and have strict guidelines/ community standards that prohibit social media as an opportunity for the offenders. What is required is action, implementation and working together (governments, law agencies, stakeholders and organizations) so that effective decisions can be taken for a better virtual experience.

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