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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Western media lectures Bharat on social media freedoms, but doesn’t berate Australia for ‘totalitarian move’?

The Australian government’s planned move to de-anonymize social media accounts and introduce a ‘social credit system’ to regulate online activity has sparked widespread outrage. The seemingly totalitarian move to link 100 points of identification to social media accounts has drawn severe criticism from many Australian citizens. However the Western media that distorts even the smallest of checks that the Bharatiya government introduces on social media giants like Facebook & Twitter, has given a much more sober reaction to the Australian government’s move which activists have dubbed a privacy risk.

In order to crack down on ‘online abuse’, the Australian government has proposed to make it mandatory to submit 100 points of identification in order to use social media. It is also proposed to give access to the police and authorities to check social media posts of every individual. Based on social media posts deemed ‘abusive’, anyone could face defamation suits, criminal prosecution etc. all in the name of curbing bad behavior. It has given rise to the suspicion that anyone critical of the government and its policies may be framed by the police, thus muffling free speech and whistleblowers.

These recommendations were made by a parliamentary inquiry committee and apparently the government is considering enforcing them. The chairman of the committee’s opinion is that there is merit in removing “the veil of being anonymous”. Many Australians have taken to social media to criticize this totalitarian move. But the Western media, which loves moral policing Bharat, has been quite restrained in its reporting.

To get a glimpse of how the same media portrayed the Bharatiya government’s moves to curb fake news during the peak of the pandemic, and to make global behemoths like Twitter, Facebook etc. more accountable, let’s look at some of the prominent Western media outlets’ reports on the same.

The Washington Post reportedIn India, social media is a lifeline. It’s being silenced‘. Authors of this article sound disturbed more because that their own propaganda accounts were restricted by Twitter rather than standing up for the average Bharatiya affected by misinformation.

The Slate ran a piece with the title ‘India’s autocratic government takes on Twitter, Facebook and Google’, a lengthy rant very similar to the WP article. A Bharatiya journalist wrote in New York Times that ‘As Outbreak Rages, India Orders Critical Social Media Posts to Be Taken Down’.

The Wall Street Journal ran a fake story on the government asking Facebook to take down a hashtag against PM Modi. Even though it was called out and exposed by the Bharatiya government, other western media continued to peddle this lie and all the articles cited above use this point to paint the government as an ‘autocratic’ one. WSJ published another atrocious article titled ‘India Threatens Jail for Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter Employees’ when all that the government asked of these companies was to comply with laws of the land.

One must remember that the entire kerfuffle between the Bharatiya government and Twitter/Facebook amounted to nothing more than an exchange of letters. There was speculation that public representatives and government officials may move to Koo, an indigenous platform, and that Twitter would be banned, but nothing of that sort happened. In the end, a hazy compromise was arrived at – we were told that these platforms had complied with legal requirements or were in the process of doing so. Yet, it was the Bharatiya government that was called all kind of names by the Western media.

Australia’s leading paper, Sydney Morning Herald even advocated for revealing the identity of social media users and stopping the “abuse nightmare”.

While Western and Bharatiya media throws labels like ‘fascist, narcissistic, autocratic, totalitarian’ etc. at the Modi government simply for standing its ground on making foreign corporates follow Bharatiya law, the same media is more balanced, even sympathetic to government views, when it comes to reporting far more aggressive plans to regulate online activity in Western nations.

The double standards and colonial hangover while reporting on Bharat couldn’t be more stark.

(Featured Image Source: FP)

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