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“Social media forces you to own up to your actions”

Dinesh Singh, Chief Technology Officer, NDTV Limited, highlights the debates surrounding social media today. By Satyaki Sarkar

Dinesh Singh has been in the news and entertainment industry for almost two decades. He has worked with NDTV for 18 years, and while he may have started off as an engineer, his work ethic and keen technical acumen saw him becoming the CTO in 2009. Since then Dinesh has handled the entire technology division for NDTV, and been associated with countless projects including NDTV Profit, NDTV Imagine, etc. With social media changing how the news and entertainment industries are run, Dinesh talks to us about the issues plaguing social media.

Two sides of the same coin
“I see social media in two ways. I’ve been associated with news since 1999 and have seen how social media has gained in popularity, from when it first came onto our radar, back in 2009, gradually picking up the pace to become the behemoth it is right now. Since 2014 social media has become one of the most powerful and effective forums for any kind of discussion and debate. However, with such incredible benefits have also come a number of risks and malpractices that have been plaguing it for a while. The thing is, with social media, unlike in the past, there is no option to take anything back. Once you have said or done something, you can no longer hope that it will get blown over or swept under the rug. In this, social media has taken people by the collar and forced them to be more responsible, and consider the possible consequences of what they say and do.”

Misuse of the medium
“However, there’s also a more grim aspect to social media. As an example, imagine two people vying for a certain thing. One of them is talented and deserving of it, while the other is not. Many a time, the latter uses social media to boost his profile to be more famous or infamous, if only through controversies and scandals, while the former stays away from the spotlight. The media, in such a case, consistently covers the latter one, due to his sensationalism and publicity. With advancements in social media, both have the opportunity to interact with their audience without relying on someone else. In such a situation, it becomes easy to manipulate and blow yourself up without much real effort.”

You can’t fool everyone all the time
“People nowadays, especially the youth, are extremely intelligent and simply cannot be taken for fools. Although I don’t wish to take names, I recall a particular incident in which a very famous media personality, who is also the wife of a renowned senior journalist, made a few comments on a specific topic in 2013, taking a stance. However, in 2015, while discussing the same topic, she completely changed her narrative and her stance on the issue. The difference was so stark that it turned into a huge scandal and flooded social media. People had gone back and dug out the specific facts and posted them online, questioning her motives, which certainly seemed quite dubious, to say the least. It shows that in today’s date, it is incredibly important for you to say exactly what you believe in and stand by it, without changing your stand and your narrative as and when it suits you. If your stance changes, you must also be able and willing to justify the reasons for that, and clearly articulate the things that made you change your mind.”

Need for regulation and governance
“The problem nowadays is that there is a plethora of conflicting interests constantly working, and there isn’t a proper framework on how to keep things unbiased and objective. If someone commits an offensive act or says something on social media, which might be deemed dangerous or offensive, the police cannot take action without being vilified by the media. But who defines where and when that line of distinction is drawn between what is covered under freedom of speech and what isn’t? We do not have proper laws in place that are efficient enough to cover this ambiguous and highly perplexing world of social media. The companies running these social media platforms definitely have to be a lot more stringent and attentive towards their content policies and in regulating the things posted online.

“In such a time, I feel that public figures and personalities definitely have a much more important role to play, being the so-called social influencers of our time. While an offensive or unjustified remark from a layman might just get overlooked on a few occasions, that will not be the case when you have the entire country watching your every move, and listening intently to what you say. Be it a renowned actor, a leading politician or a media personality, you simply cannot shrug off the responsibility for your actions and words any longer. In a country that has such a rich and vast history, the world of the Internet and social media is still comparatively new to us. So, while the country, as well as the Government, is still learning and getting acclimatised to the many issues and complications, we are slowly but steadily devising laws and regulations to efficiently maintain order and justice, without losing sight of what we are trying to achieve. And in 10 years time, not only will we have sufficiently achieved it, but we will have left each and every other country behind in our progress.” 

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