Salil Gewali, India
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” – these words of Charles Dickens ring true now more than ever before. While digital technology has taken this civilization to a new height, it has virtually spelled disaster for countless people across the world. Various digital platforms that were initially designed to “connect” people have become hotbeds of the “exploitation” of innocence. The recent outcry in the US Senate against social media giants, including Evan Spiegel, Zi Chew, Yaccarino brought forth a shocking truth – the tales of aggrieved parents whose children have become victims of sinister forces lurking in the shadows of mushrooming digital platforms.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has done a great job by exposing the grim reality faced by families and alerting each concerned citizen to be more vigilant. It revealed the dark underbelly of the digital world, where the vulnerable easily fall prey to various kinds of sexual exploitation, drugs and deceit.
Surrounded by hard-headed senators, Mark Zuckerberg found himself being humiliated as parents roared about the harm and pain inflicted on their children. The senators targeted their verbal arrows at the heads of Mita, TikTok, X, Discord, and Snapchat. They fervently expressed how innumerable young children are being trapped by the devious allure of “advertisements” running with impunity on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, X, round the clock.
Following the heavy rant and criticism against Mark Zuckerberg, he apologized to all the parents by saying: “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.” But will this apology bring back their children. Will this regret make peace with the society where youths have committed suicide or heavily indoctrinated by the evil forces active on those platforms?
Well, a Senator Lindsey Olin Graham from South Carolina accused the CEOs of having “blood on your hands,” emphasizing the dangerous consequences of social media. TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew also nodded in affirmation by saying, “as a father of three young children myself, I know that the issues that we’re discussing today are horrific and the nightmare of every parent.”
Many parents, holding placards with images of their children, screamed the urgency of addressing the issue. The parents argue that social media sites have allowed devious agencies running their sexually explicit advertisements, luring children into various sex-related activities and also pushing them into the pit of addiction.
A distressed mother of Houston, Robyn Cory, says, “If Instagram didn’t exist, this wouldn’t have happened to my daughter.” Her daughter, Kristen, aged 15, was trafficked into sexual exploitation. It was reported by The Guardian that five months after Kristen was found on the street and returned home, she again disappeared. She has not been found since then. Kristen had told her mother: “They’re coming to kill you all if I don’t go – I have to go back”. Hope the concerned leaders take the note of development with all seriousness. What lies in store for the new generation that gulps anything that comes on their Cell phones!
Just by clicking a couple of such explicit reels or videos on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok…, you will be flooded with similar pop-up notifications or obscene clippings/images that are freely uploaded by gangs of agencies, even countless individuals, to earn a number of “likes” and shares. Then you will be gradually chased by those outrageous forces that employ various methods to hit directly at your adrenaline, numbing the nerves of your wits and wisdom. As concerned parents, do we still prefer to keep mum?
Of course, it is indeed greed for money that has blinded social media CEOs. They cannot distinguish between what is good and what is bad for society. The Guardian recently reported that over 100,000 CHILDREN using Facebook and Instagram face “daily” sexual harassment and cyberbullying, including exposure to endless sexually explicit content.
Are we sacrificing our children’s innocence at the altar of voyeurism and “likes and shares”? The dark confinements or addictions created by these devious agencies, platforms and tools leave an indelible imprint on younger people’s minds, completely corrupting their thought process and behaviours. Believe it or not, countless terror groups have also been using these social media platforms as springboards to brutally attack the entire civilization.
Is it not time to wake up? Is it not time to break the silence? Albert Einstein had rightly cautioned: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
An India-based writer and researcher, Salil Gewali is best known for his research-based work entitled ‘Great Minds on India’ that has earned worldwide appreciation. Translated into thirteen languages, his book has been prefaced by a NASA chief scientist – Dr. Kamlesh Lulla of Houston, USA. Gewali is also a member of the International Human Rights Commission, Zürich, Switzerland.