Facebook ban, PTI trolls steal the limelight at internet report launch

Published: December 14, 2011

More and more young Pakistanis are joining Twitter and Facebook and participating in heated debates online - but should these discussions be monitored and controlled?ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

KARACHI: The role social media and the internet are playing in Pakistan is undeniable. More and more young Pakistanis are joining Twitter and Facebook and participating in heated debates online – but should these discussions be monitored and controlled?

These concerns were tossed back and forth between journalists, bloggers and activists at the launch of the report “New Media vs Old Politics”, a 69-page research project undertaken by Marcus Michaelsen, a PhD candidate at the University of Erfurt (Germany).

The report, launched by a German political foundation, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which has been working in Pakistan for more than 20 years, is the first exploratory research on the use of the internet, social media and the subsequent process of democratisation in Pakistan.

The general secretary of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Dr Arif Alvi, was among the commentators at the launch. Highlighting his party’s role in using social media tools to connect with people, he said: “I used to attend party meetings with my laptop in hand, and was ridiculed for being disconnected from people at the grassroots level.”

The internet also allows the PTI to campaign for “peanuts”, which is also more effective than traditional politicking with rallies and street campaigns.

As Dr Alvi’s brief concluded, a participant levelled criticism at PTI “trolls” or people who post inflammatory comments online. He said that some “low IQ” online visitors on PTI forums frequently post abusive remarks which defeat the party’s ideology. Dr Alvi replied that these spaces are monitored, and that he once personally deleted derogatory remarks about a TV anchor at her behest.

Other participants noted that while abuse and trolling is common online, web forums are important platforms for discussion and debate, something that was not possible earlier.

Also raised was the two-week Facebook court ban in response to public outrage over a competition on the social networking site that encouraged people to post drawings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), Jehan Ara, was critical of censorship and highlighted the need for legislation.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Dec 14, 2011 - 9:32AM

    The power of Social media is immeasurable. Internet is daddy of Hydrogen/Atom Bomb.
    Seen the revolutions around world lately eh??

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  • Ashraf Gul
    Dec 14, 2011 - 9:59AM

    So, What are the findings of the report? Positive or negative? Debates online can be monitored to the extent that uncalled for and derogatory remarks can be deleted by the administrator, but to put in place a mechanism that curbs the entire process of freedom of speech of individuals, is sheer stupidity.

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  • sperlay
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:13AM

    question is how many people of pakistan have access to the internet????

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  • Ali Hasan
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:19AM

    This year Pakistani internet presence has exploded. Everything from memes about media personalities, to the LHC banning everything anybody ever had a problem with to trolling with political agendas, it’s been quite an eventful time online.

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  • Salman
    Dec 14, 2011 - 2:15PM

    you cannot regulate Facebook because you do not control it. its not ptv.

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  • bilal ahsan
    Dec 14, 2011 - 2:28PM

    this is against the freedom of speech.. they are trying to take us back to stone age

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  • Hope
    Dec 14, 2011 - 3:01PM

    i think social media is a check on the anchors and media persons… as in old days you were able to listen or read news but nobody was able to comment or give his own response to that

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  • nwaq
    Dec 14, 2011 - 3:48PM

    With reference to abusive remarks against anchors on PTI forums is definitely spoiling image of party and very harmful for democracy otherwise such social networks are very powerful and playing significant role in Pakistan.There should definitely be a check on negative element present on internet.

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  • TightChuddi
    Dec 15, 2011 - 1:05AM

    PTI trolls are also hijacking ET forums and comments…

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