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With Powerful Technology Comes No Responsibility

Everything that is not powered by digital technology is now being referred to as ‘traditional’. But, is everything traditional wrong? And is everything that technology does is right? Let us look at media. Not too long back, newspapers were the dominant source of information. Most of them are large conglomerates, not necessarily profitable but carried a huge cross called ‘trust’. When a newspaper reports of a carnage in a town, people would never question whether it happened or not, or research if it is indeed true.

How could newspapers or even television always get it right? They had strict ‘traditions’. They received news from authentic source, and in most cases reporters visit the location or a government authority and even directly spoke to the people involved in the incident. After the news was written, a series of sub-editors would edit, fact-check again and again with guidance from the top brass on the style and narrative, to fine tune it.

Who, where and what?

How does social media report news? A video of a shocking incident without a date stamp, a time stamp and without the knowledge of who shot it, turns up claiming itself to be  a hate crime against a community. It is shared by millions, turns viral and causes outrage even before a legitimate news source can even act on it! The reach is infinite in a social media world.

Social media has taken the advertisers and the mantle of being a news source from traditional media. And, it does its business with no controls, no regulation, and no liability, since they are only a platform. Their controls work backwards. Users have to report abuse on their content, for them to ‘act’ or ‘react’ on it. For most part, social media is completely unaware of what their customers are reading, believing and fighting about. And, they don’t care. They lack the basic premise that most businesses are built on-ethics!

Distrust & Ethics

Slowly, social media users have begun to comprehend the ill-effects of trusting social media. This is true not just with what they see in there, but also with their own data that they have guilelessly shared with them. The governments are also trying to help people protect the privacy of their citizens, from extensive misuse. Not too many years back, governments were shaken by rumours of possible snooping on its citizens, wire-tapping etc. The roles have now reversed. Citizens are volunteering their basic data, photographs, location, and also possibly allowing themselves be ‘heard’ by intelligent machines which are gaining ground on processing natural languages.

Robots taking over is a myth. The real danger will come from businesses without a code of ethics, lack of understanding of human freedom, constitution, laws of privacy; holding copious amounts of data. They have already taken over a lot of processes and businesses; by innovating without accountability. As Thomas Friedman, the author of ‘The World is Flat’ said, “In the era of technology, everything that is old becomes more and more relevant.” Ethics and trust will never go out of style, no matter how modern the world is.

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