Pakistan’s problematic Twitter developments – Asia Occasions
Recently, the Pakistani Twitter was riddled with gender-based slurs in its “Trends” section. The abuse was directed against the wife of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Bushra Bibi, and Maryam Nawaz, Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
It is no secret that Imran Khan’s political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as well as the opposition from the main political parties PML-N, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal ( JUI-F) and smaller parties that have formed a coalition against the ruling party known as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are not fans of each other. Criticism is one thing, but the hatred that political parties have for one another is evident in verbal abuse on social media.
It is a complicated matter who is responsible for the verbal abuse on social media. All political parties are equally responsible for creating a phenomenon of abuse that is primarily directed at women.
It is also understandable that while the actions of the party employees can be controlled by the party’s management, they have no authority over their supporters, who mock each other through arcs on social media platforms.
Even journalists. Women in particular were abused on social media by supporters of political parties or even party employees. A Pakistani news platform publicly announced on its Facebook page that it would ban anyone posting abusive comments. The fact that a news organization had to make a public statement about trolling and abusive commenting shows that this has become a major problem.
This problem is not limited to Pakistan. It’s been a global problem since social media became a major source of information and communication.
Twitter has been criticized for failing to protect female and minority users from abuse. Twitter and other social media platforms can regulate how users should act on their platforms, but that also raises questions. There are other platforms out there that are specifically designed for hate speech. How would you control that? Even if they were banned by certain governments, could hundreds more take their place, and is there a line between hate speech and free speech?
Action can certainly be taken against all of this, but each country and organization has a different definition of what qualifies as hate speech, or even “moral” or “decent”.
Article 19 of Pakistan’s Constitution states: “Every citizen has the right to freedom of expression and expression, and there is freedom of the press, subject to appropriate legal restrictions imposed in the interests of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to the contempt of the court; [commission of] or inciting a crime. ”
There is nothing wrong with Article 19 here, but it did not define what exactly is considered moral or decent. Government governments, or even ordinary citizens, have never given a straight answer to this, and people’s definition of what is decent or moral is different.
It becomes even more confusing when, even when it is clear that fuzziness transcends the boundaries beyond morality and decency, some defend it, saying that it falls under freedom of expression. Ironically, such defenders would also have different interpretations of how the Pakistani constitution defines what is and is not considered free expression.
When it comes to traditional media, there is a clear (if not without flaws) line established by the Pakistani Electronic Media Regulator (PEMRA) on what to broadcast. But when it comes to the internet, no matter how hard the government tries to legislate on social media, it’s difficult to regulate such things.
Some arrests or warnings can be given, but given the number of users, the government cannot prosecute all of them. If such laws had been in place when social media was first introduced in Pakistan, it would have been a different scenario, but people, especially young people who are quite active on social media, will not be silent. Even under the guise of regulating social media, critics of current or even previous governments have been targeted.
Whether or not social media should be regulated is an issue that has given rise to much debate in Pakistan. The answer is often yes, but it also depends on who agrees to regulate social media and who is concerned about it.
The question should be what exactly the government should be cracking down on online. Strict measures against child pornography, terrorism or other serious crime are all very good, but if the goal is to target dissidents through regulation through social media, it will improve a vicious circle that is already visible in relation to Pakistan’s political landscape.
But then what to do with the trolls hurling abuse on social media? Organizations or social media platforms can definitely take action against them within limits, but any strict measure under the law seems draconian, unfortunate as it sounds, and could be abused by governments and law enforcement agencies.
Turyal Azam Khan is a Pakistani writer, blogger, and journalist primarily focused on current affairs, social issues, lifestyle, and culture. He has written for the Daily Times, Dunya Blogs, EACPE, The Nation, Naya Daur, Surkhiyan, The Times of Israel, Street Buzz, IBC English, Mashable Pakistan and The Diplomat.
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