2016 US ELECTION AND ‘SONAM GUPTA BEWAFA HAI’ – FACEBOOK’S DOUBLE STANDARDS

The article’s Hindi version appeared on iChowk.

Suddenly ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ has started spilling its content from the margins of social media and has started trending on media and, therefore, is subsequently finding increasing number of takers. People and other platforms are writing about it and it is becoming a public sphere chatter. Demonetization jokes on these Facebook pages have given it an added shot.

And we should be worried about it. Its growing number of likes should not mislead us that it is becoming popular. Rather we should go by the version that it is getting more and more notoriety with each passing day. For me, it is vitriolic face of social media (and Facebook). Stories are emerging that how different avatars of this ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ Facebook pages are creating embarrassing and harassing situations for girls with the same name. They are being targeted by social media trolls and for many of them it has gone beyond the limit to ignore it.

Facebook should take cognizance here and should block such pages immediately. But will Facebook do so – in a market like India where the government and its regulatory agencies either don’t notice such content or simply ignore them?

It is well established that many multinational corporations adopt double standards for developed and developing markets. Products of similar brands will have superior specifications in a developed market like America while it will have many shortcomings, even defying the standard benchmarking, when it comes to developing markets like India – whether it was the Coca Cola and Pepsi controversy where their products were found to high levels of pesticides or the recent case of Maggi ban for not following the norms. Such cases happen even if India is a big market for all these companies. Insensitive Double standards!

It seems this holds true for Facebook as well. Facebook’s second largest user base is India where its annual growth rate is faster than the US, its largest market (but stagnating) market, as well as than the global average. So, the whole game here is about adding more and more users. That is the hard currency for social media sites – users and traffic – and content like ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ helps in that.

Even if it is in bad taste.

But it is the Facebook content only that is giving sleepless nights to Facebook founder and promoter Mark Zuckerberg who is busy clarifying to the whole America these days that the content on Facebook is genuine and even if some fake content is there, it is less than 1%.

According to a piece in the New York Times, 44% Americans get their daily dose of news through Facebook. That means a lot of traffic and (the eyeballs that come with it).

Now the allegations are being levelled against Facebook that many fake news reports were shared on Facebook that were, in turn, shared millions of times (reaching to millions of people/voters) and helped prepare an atmosphere in favour of Donald Trump, putting Hillary Clinton in a negative light.

There were fake reports like Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump or the FBI officer under cloud for leaking Hillary Clinton’s emails was found dead or Hollywood’s star and a respectable name Denzel Washington had praised Donald Trump. These all and many other such reports were totally fake but given the reach of Facebook, it would have certainly helped Donald Trump, even if Mark Zuckerberg is on a drive to rebut such claims.

So, on one side, there is America where the founder himself has to come forward to defend Facebook – whereas in India, its second largest market – where there is fake content, where there is unethical extensions like ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’, where there are fake and anonymous accounts – and where these are spreading fast – there is no one to take care of it – neither in Facebook – nor in our society.

On Monday (November 14), in the aftermath of the raging controversy in the US, Facebook decided to include ‘fake news’ in the banned category on its advertising platforms. But what about the fake content that lies scattered here and there on Facebook – waiting for its ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ moment? Humour and satire are the essential parts of our social ecosystems but obscenity and tawdriness can never be accepted in their name.

©SantoshChaubey

WOULD TWITTER REMAIN SAME, OLD, FREE TWITTER?

Selling Twitter makes business sense for its promoters. The San Francisco based company was formed in March 2006 and went public in November 2013. But Twitter is yet to make profit. According to a Reuters report, the total accumulated loss of the company since its inception comes around $ 2.3 billion and Twitter has not showed any profit since it went public.

But Twitter is just not any other social media or information technology Company. It has become a powerhouse of news, views and information. Any big news is usually broken on Twitter first, be it Osama bin Laden’s death or Prince William’s engagement or many other such developments. Even back home in India, the whole nation was waiting for Nawaz Sharif’s UNGA diatribe and India’s first official response on it came through Twitter only. Narendra Modi had announced his sudden Lahore stopover on Twitter only. There are countless such examples – India or elsewhere.

The another aspect of Twitter that is goldmine of news and views is that people, especially those who matter, tell their anger, frustration, irritation, joy, happiness, sorrow and what not through Twitter. Sometimes a controversial tweet becomes the biggest trending news of the day. Sometimes a tweet becomes the most direct message to tell your problems and grievances that potentially reach across the spectrum.

In that sense, Twitter has become more like a mainstream media outfit – with the obvious benefits of social media – there are no restrictions, no gatekeeping, no censorship – and these are really free. Yes, there are exceptions and government poaching but then where aren’t they? The good thing about Twitter is that it has fought such censorship attempts vehemently.

If we see Twitter sale in that context – the natural question that comes to us is – “would Twitter remain the same, old, free Twitter after it is sold to some big behemoth with multiple business interests across the countries?”

Don’t we know how big businesses lobby with governments and do compromises to keep their operations growing?

©SantoshChaubey

SOCIAL BLOGGING

Now is the time to see Social Blogging as a separate category within the realm of the overall larger social activity that blogging is.

Having said that, the Social Blogging content should involve socially relevant and concerned expressions – whether it for activism – or – it is being in solidarity with – in opposing the unjust.

Bloggers have helped shaping the Arab Spring. They have started speaking for those who can’t speak. Blogging is becoming more and more socially responsible.

Bloggers have lost lives in dictatorial regimes, in restive countries and in orthodox societies. The most recent case in point is Bangladesh.

Social Blogging, in fact, is quite strong in oppressive societies where it gets amplified attention and the process that has begun will only intensify further.

Its next big leap is going to be in societies like India. India is a country that is the world’s largest democracy – a country with a robust democracy – but a country where the democracy has still a long way to go.

And the process will be business-driven, even if we scoff at capitalism! Business will lead communication technology penetration that in turn would arm more and more people with information access. Creating a blog or having an online identity to connect with the world had never been this easy.

Long live social media!

And India, the world’s second most populous country, with projections to have the world’s largest share of middle class in a decade or so, just rejected the initiatives of internet and social media giants like India’s Airtel or Facebook to dominate internet/social media by introducing differential pricing through their networks.

Long live net neutrality!

But its sustainability has to be perennial!

Let’s start a debate first and then a discourse to spread the word about Social Blogging and it’s increasing role and need in societies.

SocialBlogging-4

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

A ‘DISLIKE’ BUTTON ON FACEBOOK: DOES IT MATTER?

Facebook’s “dislike” button is going to be a disaster – Quartz
Get real Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s dislike button is too late – The Telegraph
Facebook Doesn’t Need a ‘Dislike’ Button – Here’s Why – NDTV
Does Facebook Need a ‘Dislike’ Button? – The New York Times
Facebook gives the thumbs-up to ‘dislike’ button – Financial Times
Will Facebook users like ‘dislike’ button? Opinionline – USA Today
Facebook is working on a ‘dislike’ button – CNBC
Here’s Why Facebook Wants a ‘Dislike’ Button – Time
Facebook’s ‘Dislike’ Button Is Going to Get a Lot of Use in Asia – Foreign Policy
Facebook ‘Dislike’ Button: Why It Might Not Be a Thumbs Down – ABC News
Facebook ‘dislike’ button in pipeline, says Mark Zuckerberg – The Guardian
Facebook Is Creating a Dislike Button, Mark Zuckerberg Confirms – Yahoo Tech

The world media carried out an intense debate about this ‘dislike button’ by Facebook, a development that is nothing but a delayed move by the social media giant – the largest social media platform by user base.

The social media platform that has remained there in spite of stiff challenges from challengers including from Google – it is in fact the only social media website in its category with a global presence. The most talked about challenger, ‘Google Plus’ is going to close its shop. Earlier, Orkut had also failed Google.

Also Facebook supports different media upload platforms. Other famous social media platforms are platform specific – like YouTube and other similar sites for video content – like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium or others for ‘blog content’ – like Twitter, Weibo and others for ‘microblogging content’.

Basically, every social media website is a content sharing platform – in any form – with any possible content as per the norms – but Facebook provides, in a way, to share all of them in one place – and has evolved over the years – based on consumer feedbacks – and loads of ‘algorithms’ insight into them.

Today, Facebook has around one billion users spread in different countries. And in spite of the site growing commercial with time, its role in mass protest movements like Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street or even in anti-corruption movement back home is well known. In fact, the self-propelled social concerns (by users) provide global sanctity to platforms like Facebook. In fact, they help these organization in covering their ‘omnipresent’ commercial streak.

Anyway, what Mark Zuckerberg ‘announced’ was nothing new – and certainly not for generating intense analytical buzz over different ‘contours and aspects’ of the ‘proposed or upcoming’ Facebook ‘dislike’ button.

In fact, the massive global buzz around his ‘question and answer’ session has once again proved the marvel of ‘sleek communication campaign’ that kick off spontaneously after every such development – in case of products reaching masses globally.

People started writing about it because so many people use Facebook. The writers were trying to speak on their behalf, even if a ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ button doesn’t do much beyond some case studies of anaemic effects of social media on people.

Well, the actual debate has to be – do we really need debates of this sort – like Facebook introducing an addition to elements of its site, here with a ‘dislike’ button?

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FACEBOOK INVASION

Social media invasion – well, it is one of the most intensely ‘debated’ issues worldwide – the invasion of the social media tools in our lives beyond the ‘perceived’ usage of the social media for us – and the two outfits are central to the logics of this debate – Google and Facebook – the two online giants with access to almost 3 billion users.

Here, it is about one such incident associated with Facebook that I witnessed last night.

Last night, around 11 PM, I was exploring websites of the carriers Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet for Delhi to Varanasi flights on August 15. While doing so, I was also in my Facebook account.

FB-1

Jet

Indigo

Spicejet

Suddenly, an incoming message drew my attention to the Facebook page. Nothing unusual! It keeps on happening and signing out of the Facebook chat app is the best way to deal with it.

Anyway, here the context is different, about invasion of the social media tools in our lives, going deep into the details of what we do and how we behave online to dig information for their commercial use, and my first hand experience of it the last night.

While visiting the Facebook page of my account last night while exploring the flight booking options, what arrested my eyesight and stuck me with was the advertisement bar of the Facebook page (left or right side, depends on what convention one uses to write so) showing advertisements of Jet Airways and the travel portal http://www.makemytrip.com for exactly the same itinerary of mine – Delhi to Varanasi – promising me special rates – as shown in the screenshots above.

Now, we know websites like Google, Facebook and many others use cookies and other information collection tools to makes heaps of information on the social media usage behavior of their users (in the name of tracking the online shopping behavior, a more or less accepted practice by the user who bother to know about such issues – but, it ‘must’ be limited to what we do on Facebook and what we do with its advertisements – certainly not with what we do on other websites) – but what this last night experience tells – that websites like Facebook are getting so deeper that they can look through what all we are doing online.

The last night experience was on marketing advertisements based on information collected on what I was doing on other online platforms than Facebook – means Facebook can have access to every avenue of my online presence – be it my online purchases or ‘online window shopping’ or my other personal online activities – or is it limited to collecting only the commercial information, something that is the ‘redundant’ sort of catchphrase of these companies?

But, like always, we cannot trust the defense of these companies – because, if they have the ability to see what we are exploring and purchasing online – then, they also have the scale to see what else we are doing while online. We cannot trust them on their mere assurance because they are yet to share with us the information they collect from us (on us, about us) by their online snooping.

Have they shared with you?

Yes, it doesn’t mean to shut our online presence, but we need to draw the line and need to very cautious about following this line.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

YET ANOTHER REASON FOR POLITICAL TWITTERATI OF INDIA TO GO EVEN LOUDER

Here is yet another one!

‘People don’t want to talk about losers – they want to talk about winners’ says a study report linking ‘Twitter presence and chances to win elections’.

Though the study has been done by a US university (Indiana University, Bloomington) based on data from 2010 and 2012 elections in US on Twitter trend analysis, there are observations that would make the die-hard users of social media (read Twitter here) in Indian politics particularly happy.

Even if we do not go into the detailed specifics of the study, it talks about something that matches innately with a trait nurtured and perpetuated by many of the crooning Indian politicians who sound to have forgotten if there is something called ‘melody’.

The central-most observation (context: Indian politicians) of this Twitter-specific study should be the most heartening one.

It says, irrespective of the nature of the tweets (complimentary or derogatory), those who scored high on Twitter index (here, name mentioned in the tweets) scored better in the elections. The study quotes results from different House races in the US to show the links and prove its point.

Now we cannot say the strategists of politicians like Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi would not come across this study report.

Okay, the team of strategists may be disconnected from the ground realities of India (that reflects in poor speechmaking most of the time), they are thoroughly professional and highly educated for their work assignments and they are right on the job.

Suppose, the strategists educated in the ivy-league institutions, pick this study and give it enough of thoughts to implement. What would happen then?

Some broad outcomes that may be:

We will have almost of the lot of talkative and not-so-talkative politicians on Twitter even if they are not on other social media platforms like Facebook; even if they cannot write ‘Twitter’ or ‘tweet’.

Twitter would help the big mouths become louder mouths as they would not have to find some media outlet to ooze out their unrestricted flow of words.

As ‘what lies beneath’ doesn’t matter (as the study report suggests) our dear ‘louder mouth’ politicians would unleash the verbal missiles with an ever increasing frequency and brutality following the dictum that ‘even a bad publicity adds to the increasing electoral mileage positively’.

The breaking news stories on media outlets would be broken even more. There may come a time (and again) when almost of the breaking-news rundown on political stories would be populated by the stories based on tweets.

The debates on ‘social media platforms like Twitter redefining the news-media industry’ would get further fillip earning some more good part-time bucks for the pundits and analysts.

Twitter Inc., the San Francisco, based company would find a promising market in the world’s largest democracy and second most populous nation with a rapidly increasing smart-phone and Internet base.

So far, so good! Lucrative prospects ahead!

So, beware!

And be ready for the onslaught!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/