Minister of IT and Telecom has announced that the Government of Pakistan is working on its own social media platform for citizens. As per the Minister, the platform will be complete by the end of this year and will have all sorts of features like messaging, voice calling, video calling and so forth. The draft document of the application has also been moved to the Federal cabinet for approval.
Welcome to the era of 2000s…..
If we take a look at what happened in the US Elections and later on how it led to the immediate suspension of President Donald Trump from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, we can realize why we don’t need a government developed social media platform.
Social media platforms are places where users can freely express their opinions (with certain rules of course) and are free from the pressure of being judged. From creating anonymous profiles to actually becoming social media celebrities, these platforms have actually changed the way people think and use the internet.
With such freedom, there are problems of course but through moderation and neutral rules set on the platform, they can easily be controlled and that is how the internet has been working since the last 2 decades. But if this goes under government control, the social media platform will never be able to reach the same level as the current ones we have like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Let’s see why:
Neutrality would be questionable
The neutrality of the content being produced on the government-owned social media handle would be highly questionable. Since it is government-owned, the moderation on the platform would be questioned by the users and especially by the opposition of the government. The success of social media platforms relies on the number of users there are and the content they produce, if any of these 2 factors are hampered then the platform can never be accepted by users.
This could serve as a basis of banning other platforms
If the government launches its own social media platform, it will start to promote it over other social media platforms that already exist. Potentially if it cannot control the content on a certain platform, it will become an excuse for them to ban it and encourage users to sign up on its own platform.
Opposition narrative to be crushed?
If the government developed and operated social media handle is the only one in the country, the opposition narrative would be crushed. The government in power would never allow users to post content that is against them or their policies hence leaving only one force in the battleground. Current social media platforms are neutral in political battles and hence they allow both parties to promote freely and fairly to reach out to users.
Even if it is a simple messaging app, one begs to question as to why the government is dedicating resources to make an app like this. What is the need?
With those points in mind, you might be thinking then what should the government actually do? Well here are the things:
- Create a conducive environment for businesses and startups to prosper
- Nurture entrepreneurs to create sustainable solutions to the actual problems Pakistanis are facing
- Invite big tech companies and social media giants to open up offices in the country
- Communicate with top executives and devise policies for local moderation of content in line with the Constitution of Pakistan
- Create strong resolutions for holding social media platforms accountable if any untoward incident happens. Blocking/banning them is not the solution.
What are your thoughts on a government developed social media platform?