Role of social media in the face of Covid-19: Experts speak

Staff Reporter
ITANAGAR, Jun 26: A two-day webinar on ‘The role of social media in the face of Covid-19 pandemic’, organized jointly by Rajiv Gandhi University’s (RGU) Institute of Distance Education and mass communication department, began on Friday with experts, faculty members and students participating remotely from their respective devices and locations.
In the inaugural session, RGU Mass Communication Head, Kh Kabi highlighted the importance of the webinar “with social media being used and misused in disseminating misinformation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Saying that “news is not fake; whatever is fake is not news,” Kabi advised applying terms such as “misinformation” or “disinformation” in place of “fake” news.
Delivering the keynote speech, Assam University’s former pro-vice chancellor, Dr KV Nagraj pointed out the negative as well as the positive aspects of social media usage, and how it is a far cry from conventional media.
“Conventional media,” he said, “engages in gatekeeping by filtering and being selective with the information it sends out to the public, while there is no one to regulate the information on social media.”
Dr Nagraj also highlighted the importance of data mining and creativity on social media.
While he noted that social media have erased the distinction between the elite and the common man, he stressed on netiquette among the users.
“There are certain etiquettes to be practised even while sending an e-mail,” he said, and suggested making proper use of social media.
He said he was not pleased with “the performance of the media in portraying Covid-19.”
Agreeing with Dr Nagraj on maintaining netiquette, RGU Vice Chancellor, Prof Saket Kushwaha advised students to “maintain their messaging etiquette and learn to differentiate between different texting styles among friends, families, teachers and others.”
The VC also opined that social media should have guidelines on how information is delivered to the users.
Dibrugarh University’s English Department Assistant Professor, Dr Basil N Darlong Deingdoh made a presentation on ‘Social media conundrums: A layman’s perspective’, drawing attention to the reach of influential people and how their views and opinions impact the layman.
He also shed light on the role of governments in identifying false or inaccurate information, as well as on their involvement in curtailing the freedom of the press in disseminating information related to the pandemic.
East Mojo editor-in-chief, Karma Paljor spoke on the changing roles of journalists with increasing use of social media, and the need to train them better, especially on technical aspects.
“Journalists will need to work on deep-dive stories, concentrate more on data, and conduct detailed interviews, while playing the role of fact-checkers,” Paljor said.
NDTV’s North East correspondent, Ratnadip Choudhury spoke on the ‘Role of mobile journalism in times of Covid-19’.
He highlighted how mobile journalism is growing, but also pointed out that in some places in the region, mobile journalism can be difficult due to connectivity issues.