But what if social media is completely shutdown
If it really gets banned, small entrepreneurs would be affected the most as Facebook is the cheapest tool of marketing, says social media marketing expert
“If you want to destroy any nation without war, make adultery and nudity common in the next generation.”
Quoting Salahuddin Ayyubi during Friday’s hearing, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court, again in his emotional remarks in the case regarding alleged presence of sacrilegious content on social media, strongly condemned it and not only that, he also directed PEMRA to monitor the content aired on electronic media.
The suo moto notice of the IHC judge against sacrilegious content on social media has sparked a new debate over the blasphemy laws since the judge and the government are on the same page for shutting down the entire social media to counter this practice.
Yet the authorities seem to forget that social media has emerged as an amazing medium of communication and social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr, etc, have dawned a new era of technology and communication. It has become an industry in itself in the past few years and the future is also of increased digitalisation and social media. Hence, the chatter among the government circles to ban this medium is indeed worrisome.
Considering that there are around 27 million Facebook users in Pakistan alone, it is right on the part of those opposing the ban but yet again, it is about ‘blasphemy’ and there is no leniency towards this crime in our country. This is what the authorities have done before by banning YouTube and it would come as no surprise if such an extreme step is taken again, but this time it is about closing the entire social media. Now that the social media, and Facebook, in specific, has become a part of our lives, it is hard to imagine living or say ‘socialising’ without it.
Moreover, since there are no filters and no verification tools available on social media and it is completely free, it would snatch the freedom of those who use it to express their thoughts and views. But the trouble is much more serious. Banning social media not only curbs freedom of speech and freedom of expression as incorporated in Article 19A and 19B of the Constitution, it would also affect multiple businesses that are solely online and are of course making good money.
Social media marketing expert Wahab Younis, while talking to DNA about the possible banning, said, “If it really gets banned, it would be a major setback for Pakistan since it already lacks employment opportunities. Small entrepreneurs would be affected the most as Facebook is the cheapest tool of marketing. Not only that, international brands like Pepsi, Levis, P&G, etc, also pay agencies for their online promotion, their businesses would also be affected as Pakistan is a huge consumer market. Also, the target set by the government itself to make the e-commerce industry worth billions of rupees won’t be achieved as per capita income would further reduce.”
He, however, doesn’t think the social media will be banned as a Facebook delegation will hold a meeting with Pakistani authorities and negotiate on the matter.
Moreover, Younis added, social media also provides online trainings for the students and social media addicts will also have an influence on their behaviour since it curbs their freedom of expression.
He further said blasphemous or unethical content can be easily filtered by identifying such pages and reporting them through their IP address. The government can contact Facebook management, mentioning that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI has already taken the data of some 72 profiles from Facebook in 2014-15.
Similarly, Dilawar Abbas, a digital consultant also running multiple online businesses, said, “I doubt that it will be banned but if it is, it is going to hurt 100 percent of the businesses that are online and on social media. Specially, the online food blogs and the e-commerce industry are going to get a big hit. It will also close down a medium for big brands to talk and get opinion from their customers.”
Shutting down social media would be a great loss but people always find alternate ways just like they did for YouTube. You can’t shut it down as it is a boundary-less medium. If you shut down one thing, hundreds of more will emerge, says PTI leader Andleeb Abbas
Andleeb Abbas of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, while commenting on the issue, said, “Blasphemous sites should be banned. If the government is taking action against them, it is a good thing, but social media is a big thing. Much information is shared through this medium. There are online courses for those who cannot afford them and scholarly material and explanation of Quranic verses too is on it but if only a few among the lot are being blasphemous, only they should be banned and not the entire social media.”
It is right to be emotional when it comes to blasphemy but here the government wants to shut it for its own vested interests, she said. Referring to Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb, Abbas said that she is strongly running the campaign against social media.
“The Sharif family criticizes this medium because the information regarding their assets was leaked out on social media. This is the only reason they want to completely ban it,” the PTI leader said.
“Shutting down social media would be a great loss but people always find alternate ways just like they did for YouTube. You can’t shut it down as it is a boundary-less medium. If you shut down one thing, hundreds of more will emerge”.
The government, instead of remedying the situation, bans the entire thing just like they banned Basant, she said, and suggested that there should be targeted tracing of the extremist elements on social media with the help of monitoring teams who keep a watch on such content.
The blasphemous and sacrilegious content, disrespecting the Prophet (PBUH), sure hurts the sentiments of Muslims but it is not a solution to close the medium itself where it is shared. Instead, such content should be carefully filtered and monitored so no High Court is forced to take suo moto action against it. The matter which is already controversial is made a national problem by such sensitive remarks.
The need is to revise the blasphemy laws by conducting healthy debates without wanting to kill someone in its name. The world is moving fast, it is time to keep up the pace with them not to block technology in the name of religion.