First appeared on the Dawn Blog under the title “Moral Policing the Internet”
How many of you have come across content claiming to ‘expose’ or tell the ‘truth’ about a certain someone? More importantly how many of you have shared such content? If you’re one of those who hits forward without thinking, this post is for you.
It wasn’t the first time someone pulled off the cheap stunt of stealing online pictures and then making them viral over the internet. The incident’s aftermath, however, has made it much worse, and simultaneously thought-provoking.
It began when my Twitter timeline was flooded with links to a blog making preposterous claims: “exposing the real face of Pakistani Journalist,” “CIA Public Relations at Work?” and the icing on the cake, “CIA Hosts Drinks and Dance Party for Pakistani Journalists at US Embassy Islamabad.” The ambiguously named blog’s claim to fame was a post containing pictures of Pakistani journalists partying with the US Embassy staff in Islamabad. Not only were these pictures stolen from someone’s Facebook account, which is a major privacy breach, but they were also inappropriately captioned.
In addition to posting the pictures, they went on to call for a ban on all journalists photographed at the party, with comments suggesting that suo moto notice be taken regarding the “CIA-MOSSAD-RAW agents paid by the Jews to destablise Pakistan.”
Shamefully, most of the commentators on this unnecessary and defamatory post –and those who chose to share the pictures – overlooked the fact that someone’s privacy was being blatantly exploited. This disregard reveals the nasty side of citizen journalism. Probably to the delight of the blogger and those who commented on the photographs, two of the journalists photographed at the party were suspended from their jobs.
This incident is another milestone in the activities of the moral police that had recently taken over Pakistani cybersphere. For the sake of sanity, we must voice our opinion against such ‘criminal acts,’ which compromise the privacy of an individual. After all, being a media personality does not designate one as public property to be scrutinised at will.
Of course, the real irony of the situation is that the self-proclaimed moral regulators currently stalking the internet fail miserably when it comes to ‘exposing’ the real issues. Take, for example, this video clip from the reality television show ‘Living On The Edge,’ hosted by Waqar Zaka.
The show invites participants to prove their daring by sharing their stories while the host (read: bully) decides their fate. This particular video shows a young man, who considers himself brave because he was involved in a gang-rape. From the get-go, one wonders why Zaka would even entertain such a horrifying story on his show without instantly making a move to have the man arrested.
But it gets worse. Zaka cross-questions the man and demands to hear the full story of the incident. The rapist is crude, misogynistic, and expresses no regret for committing the worst act of violence against a woman, but in a sick turn of events, he is only silenced when he abuses the show’s host. It is only at that point that Zaka pushes back against the man. It is noteworthy that the rapist is attacked by the host not because of the foul crime he committed, but because he used foul language against Zaka.
There is no doubt that this video is one of the most horrifying things available within Pakistani cyberspace. It has been available online for over, and yet I have not witnessed any moral outrage against the show, its host, and, of course, the young rapist who probably still roams free despite confessing his crime to the media. Where are the forth-at-the-mouth demands for a ‘ban’ or angry calls for suo moto notice to be taken against everyone involved with this show. I demand an explanation as to why the moral regulators stood silent on this occasion?
Is the personal life of a bunch of journalists worthy of our criticism, while the public confession of a rapist being given airtime is does not merit our anger? How fair is it for journalists to have their careers impacted for merely attending a party, while people like Zaka continue to be allotted prime time?
As we move on to engage on social media platforms we must realise that certain ethical codes apply. When we unthinkingly click on and forward online content, we may be endorsing a flagrant breach of privacy and intrusive behaviour, which could target us as much as others. Let’s grant individuals their privacy while we citizen journalists highlight issues that actually matter.