This article is motivated by the comments of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Patrick Kudalor to the effect that citizens may be restricted access to Social Media platforms on elections day if it becomes necessary to do so, and some comments that came thereafter.
I must equally state that the choice of topic was rooted on some two major mass communication theories which would serve as background to the rest of this article.
The proponents of the hypodermic needle theory of communication have it that, when information is released to the general public, they waste no time on acting on same. According to them, messages delivered are acted upon by recipients almost immediately so that they realise their effect.
The second theory, limited effect theory, on the other hand, has it that, individuals, instead of acting at any message received as the hypodermic needle theorists would have us believe, would rather wait to take instruction from opinion leaders before acting. According to them, the mass society acts when an opinion leader gives an approval to messages received through the mass medium.
We need to consider certain characteristics of this mass society we would be dealing with. Two major characteristics are inherent; their heterogeneous nature as well as the presence of anonymity in these models.
The individuals involved in mass communication theories are people who are not known by the sender of any information through the mass medium. Therefore, messages are simultaneously processed and acted upon by the individuals involved with little or no consultations among them.
Narrowing down on the specific subject of interest, social media with its wide nature, opens up individuals to connect with one another from across the world – at least where they are allowed to operate.
In the Ghanaian society, I would dare posit that, these two theories can be established in our society. For that matter, it is important to ensure the special treatment of this unit.
Indeed, who ever would want to deal with the larger society, must specifically segregate the society into two. Those who have the wherewithal to decipher content of any media reportage and those who do not have that power to do so.
Clearly, with the proliferation of media in Ghana, information is spread across like wild fire and as fast as the speed of light. While seeking political interest by some of these media content, the publics must not be regarded in isolation.
Every communicator or sender of information has a predetermined outcome. Any communicator who releases information without that impact assessment on the predetermined outcome is not an instrument of trust.
We still have rural communities that make use of media content. Unlike their counterpart city dwellers some of whom may have the means to cross check and verify information before acting, they may not be able to engage in same.
The outcome may be to act immediately. Indeed, it must be driven home, that, once trust is established with a media house, some media consumers may have no reason to cross check content.
Funny enough, I have keenly followed some arguments. Indeed, anyone who joins social media can or better still, may be considered to be able to read and write. However, we have gotten to the point where journalists have resorted to scanning social media platforms for news items.
In this case, a schemed media content that is newsworthy may be carried by a news house for its interest knowingly or unknowingly. What is of importance and worthy of notice is that, a wise social media user who could read and write, would have misled an entire society by posting wrong information and having a gullibly skewed media house carrying same.
With the above paragraph on hind, we have seen how the educated so classified, would have gotten to those who are not on social media platforms. That is where the problem begins.
It is significant to then interpret and assess the statement of the IGP in this light. The intelligentsia may decide to misapply their potent wisdom for an effect to suit a particular political agenda.
If we are able to prove ahead of the elections that we can still operate in the cyberspace with decorum without causing danger to society, I am sure the considerations to restricting access to these media would be made useless.
It is interesting to see how people would dwell on their freedoms and liberties to lash at the statement without assessing the imminent impact this is likely to cause our society. If liberties and freedoms are guaranteed and we end up destroying our society, where would we exercise those liberties and freedoms? On other people’s lands?
It is better to act to protect our sovereign interest. Indeed, it makes interesting, suggestions by others that the security services should rather avail themselves on these social media platforms thereby serving as authentic sources of information especially during this election year. What we are failing to recognise is that, our societies are not developed to the extent that such authentic information are simultaneously assessed by all spontaneously.
Inherent in our desires to pursue our liberties and freedoms should be our ultimate responsibilities to protect this state and make it what we wish it to be.
Long Live Ghana