Don't shoot the messenger

Just when social networkers and the lazy-at-heart were getting ready to conclude their customary social duties online -- doling out season's greetings virtually -- a Delhi court threw caution to the chilly winds by setting a deadline of February 6 for 22 such virtual social hubs -- including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft -- to remove all 'anti-religious' or 'anti-social' content. 

There is an undeniable logical fallacy in this decree. We cannot deny that often, websites become cesspools spawning hatred, prejudice and intolerance, a convenient medium for anonymous score-settling. But who is keying in those exchanges? Who are these 'persons,' selling and publicly exhibiting 'lascivious content' which is likely to 'deprave and corrupt persons'?

It's you. It's the networker, and not the network that is behind it. The court's deadline is akin to shooting the messenger. The websites are simply virtual post boxes. We cannot blame the website for the content that its users take the liberty of sullying it with. Just as the manufacturer of a knife cannot be held responsible for a stabbing death.

The court's move does little to address the issue at its roots: that of personal accountability. Social networking is what we make of it. The ultimate responsibility lies with the individual user, to put an indispensable social tool to good and constructive use, as it has been used many times in the past. It is the user who must refrain from using the media as a convenient tool to spread malicious ideologies that strike against the creed of tolerance -- whether blasphemous, anti-social or communal. 

Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our democracy, and the strength of democratic structure is reflected by the way the nation treats these rights. We are privileged to be citizens in a nation that constitutionally guarantees each citizen the empowering freedom to speech and expression. But with power comes responsibility. So let's not shoot the messenger, but instead, look before we leap �er �post.

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