The advent of social media in this day and age has changed the way we organise movements and engage public participation. The tools and platforms available to us today lend to wider reach and by much more efficient system of communication and advertising. In a society where illiteracy is fast receding into the shadow of the bygone days, their usefulness assumes significance of special order. Not alone are they convenient, cheap and powerful, however. They can be dangerously destructive.
We are talking about the use of social media to conduct political campaigns.
The government has dissolved in advance of primary and general elections to the National Assembly which is expected to happen towards the tail end of this year. An interim government consisting of nine members led by Chief Justice is in place. As we await the announcement of election dates from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) to set in train full-on engagement of political parties with constituents, campaigning has already begun on the social media.
What we have been witnessing in the posts and updates, though, border on the unhealthy. Campaign materials on the social media that are being posted by the zealots behind the mask of anonymity are by nature not alone unhelpful but of the kind that can cause a stink in the society with abominable messages of hate and hostility. The individuals who are launching such attacks on political parties and candidates could either be party stooges paid for the purpose or those whose sense of propriety long departed their hearts and heads.
Both are irresponsible and deserve to be brought to the law.
A three-way arrangement has been worked out between ECB, Department of Information Technology and Telecom, and Facebook to remove posts that are in violation of the electoral laws. This certainly brings a small comfort but there is today a need to look at social media use beyond election time.
In the meanwhile, as consumers of digital information we might do well to err on the side of caution and employ our good sense and judgement.