Social media which initially started with a bunch of teenagers is now out to change the world. It remains to be seen if it is for better or worse but its reach leaves even established media houses flabbergasted . Gradually the media conglomerates face a crisis of sheer credibility as information has overtaken the world . People from completely unrelated fields have turned into known media personalities and journalists .

The easy accessibility from smartphones makes it simple to maintain a regular media presence . News which would never make it to big time newspaper publications and television channels reaches the public . Most media houses follow the stance pushed on them from their financiers while the average individual has nothing to lose and a lot to gain from citizen journalism .

Facebook probably gave it the initial niche to reach its present humongous proportions , that is a dichotomy in itself as Facebook probably started out as a spy tool for major intelligence agencies . It became the tool of revolutions like the Arab Spring . Then the blog websites like WordPress or Google Blogspot opened new avenues as the average activist could literally add body to a story .It gave the masses the power to think , to communicate and to amass their perceptions into a virtual database.

I myself have benefited from social media, I started out with making a Facebook account with the sole intention of keeping in touch with my family . I hardly had political views or any activist inclinations , always having had a predilection for literature , poetry and law.

I had the reputation of being polite and staying out of arguments. One day I chanced to come on the Facebook page of a Pakistani fashion designer , I was thunderstruck to see him spewing venom against Pakistan , I always had my feelings in the right place for my country and I answered him very logically. I was victimised with a barrage of insults which left me fuming and I sat down and searched for likeminded pages. I noticed they had a large amount of followers and that increased their effectiveness.

Deciding to increase my social media strength I soon became a part of some social causes and human rights movements . I also started to have my say on Pakistan-centric issues first by writing statuses and later on with articles .Twitter soon became my battlefield, there’s no looking back and I’m happy I have been able to change the perspective of people from other countries on Pakistan . Some will visit my wall to get the ‘real story ‘ instead of believing in the conventional media. Right now the battle between the conventional media and the alternate media is already over with the latter being much more credible,varied and shared by people right from the scene of action.

Some governments see social media as a threat , notably my friends from the UK , USA and UAE will hesitate to write their views publicly as it can get them imprisoned or lose their jobs at the very least .Recently Turkey banned Twitter before impending elections for a short time until a court injunction came in favour of freedom of speech. People from countries with harsh social media policies use fake ids keep de activating whenever they smell trouble .Some have even had their accounts taken down or hacked ,but the truth keeps coming through again and again and there’s no stopping it . Then there are some using it for negative propaganda , terrorist activity and enlisting new people to join up . Still negative activity would be in much lower proportions as the majority of humans are good . It has become a solid platform for politics, social and human issues , giving ordinary citizens a voice which they rarely get even in a democracy.

At times one can see that popular opinion makes governments give in and try to be more effective . This platform just needs a wider and more varied userbase now , though in agricultural countries like Pakistan the real masses are in rural areas and have a lower education ratio which prevents them from making social media the true voice of the people.

I seriously have no doubts that there is absolutely no privacy on any network , be assured that whatever you write or do is completely accessible to those that are interested in getting access to it , in these circumstances it is advisable to stop putting correct information online . I would advise users to only say and do that which they can openly claim to be their own content in order to be safe from harm.

The PRISM program allows government agents direct, real-time access to the servers of nine major tech companies, including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube. It does not target US citizens, who are protected by the constitution from unreasonable searches. PRISM collects data of “non-US persons”, particularly from countries such as Iran and Pakistan. These programs have congressional and judicial oversight. The NSA could ask Facebook for access to all Facebook accounts opened up in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Maybe there are 50 of them , all will be under surveillance . Whereas PRISM is involved in the collection of data, another tool Boundless Informant focuses on organizing and indexing metadata. The tool categorizes communications records rather than the content of a message itself, such as a text message or phone call.

Boundless Informant does not reveal the content of emails or phone calls, but its data can encompass location and Internet Protocol address information, according to the Guardian. According to Times sources, both Google and Facebook have discussed setting up separate portals where the companies deposit data when they receive requests from the U.S. government. The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time on the Internet and that necessity is being abused to extend powers of certain governments beyond what is necessary. There is a huge possibility such information could be misused , there is hardly any positive aspect.

If anybody wanted to see your e-mails or your phone, all they have to do is use intercepts and get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. Any analyst at any time can target anyone and nobody is safe . Considering all of the above, try not to go to extremes on social media . The best thing social media can be employed for is anything that can benefit one’s country or raise awareness on festering issues.

By: Sabena Siddiqi