That’s the provocative headline given to my latest op-ed essay, just published by the leading citizen journalism portal Drawing from my recent interactions with the IGF Academy, as well as several academic and civil society groups, I position the current public debates on web’s socio-cultural impacts in the context of freedom of expression.
With 30 per cent of our population now using the Internet, it is no longer a peripheral pursuit. So we urgently need more accurate insights into how society and economy are being transformed by these modern tools.
My basic premise: many well-meaning persons who urge for greater regulation of the web and social media overlook that governments in Sri Lanka have a terrible track record in stifling dissent in the name of safeguarding the public.
I argue: “As a democracy recovering from a decade of authoritarianism, we need to be especially careful how public sentiments based on fear or populism can push policymakers to restrict freedom of expression online.
The report comes amid growing fears that the threat from online dangers has grown far more quickly than society’s response to them, researchers said.
“It comes in the wake of the worries that tech-savvy young people are being exposed to risks that their parents never were and might not know how to confront – like sexting, cyber bullying and content which promotes self-harm, suicide and eating disorders,” they said.
The You Gov survey showed 78 per cent parents were either fairly or very concerned about sexting, compared to 69 per cent who were worried about alcohol misuse and 67 per cent who were concerned about smoking.The web has become the last frontier for free speech when it is under pressure elsewhere.“When our politicians look up to academics and researchers for policy guidance, the advice they often get is control or block these new media.Another study last year found 13 per cent of 11 to 16 year-olds reported that they had taken topless pictures of themselves and three per cent had taken fully naked pictures of themselves.More than one in 10 young people say they have been the victim of cyber bullying, and self-harm among children is on the rise amid evidence of a link between internet use and an increased risk of self harm, the report said.