Digital Summit: Social media and content consumption

20 Jan,2012

By Shruti Pushkarna


Day 2 of the 6th India Digital Summit organized by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) began with an informative session on where social media stands today. The session also touched upon some legal nuances with reference to the recent controversy on freedom of expression online.


Social Media: Whose Food, Whose Poison?

The panel consisted of Pawan Duggal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India & Cyber Law Expert, Pranesh Prakash, Programme Manager, Centre for Internet & Society, Shubho Sengupta, Digital/Social Consultant & Integrated Marketing Council, Coca Cola and Supriyo Gupta, Founder, Digilogue Communication. The session was moderated by Pradyuman Maheshwari, Editor-in-Chief & CEO, MxM India.


Cyber law expert Mr Duggal started by outlining for the audience where the law stands on freedom of expression as far as the online medium is concerned. He agreed that as per the Constitution, every citizen has the right to freedom of speech but this is not necessarily an absolute right. The recent amendments in the law have changed quite a few things in cyber law jurisdiction; the most important being the introduction of the term ‘intermediary’. As an intermediary if one does not comply with the law, and allows inappropriate/offensive content to be published online, one can be exposed to both civil and criminal liability, depending on the case in question. While Mr Duggal agreed that there is no escaping the law, he also emphasized on the need for organizations like the IAMAI to step forward and ask for amendments to be made to the almost ‘draconian’ IT Act.


For Pranesh Prakash the picture seemed grimmer than it’s painted out to be. He cited some examples of how the law is formulated in the country in a ‘cut & paste’ manner rather than with a proper understanding of the larger issue at hand. He expressed concern over how in the physical world law catches up in a very different manner as compared to the virtual world. He said, “Police can’t just walk into a bookstore and remove a book saying it is obscene, there has to be a valid court order banning the book. Then why should the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. be held responsible for which they are not…”


Intermediaries, said Mr Duggal, “…are not supposed to use their mind or judgment over an issue. They should just act upon a complaint or government’s advice.” It is when the intermediary starts using his/her judgment, that problem arises.


According to Supriyo Gupta, the issue of intermediaries is not as big, rather it’s just a flawed process in a developing law. He noted, “The issue of intermediary is going to be a short lived one…the larger issue is that one has the right to publish but does one understand what it carries with it?” He said there is a need for companies to think whether they are going to be able to fix the way people are using social media, whether they use it responsibly or not.


Talking about whether despite all controversy, social media is still the place for brands to be in, Shubho Sengupta was of the view that social media and brands don’t go together. He said, “Social media and brands aren’t an easy fit, and brands don’t understand this. What social media does is that it creates opportunity for two way communication. Brands need to understand that it’s (social media) the consumer’s world, and brands that are doing well in this space have taken cognizance of this fact that in social media space, consumer is the king.”


The session concluded with all panelists agreeing with the fact that the law needs amendment and the government needs to be sensitized that for businesses to grow, legislation will have to be minimal. But unfortunately as Mr Duggal mentioned, “In an environment of coalition politics, amending the IT Act Is not a top priority.”


Moving from Memorable to Meaningful

The session started with a keynote by Anthony Rhind, Co-Global CEO, Havas Digital, and it was moderated by S N Bhaduri, Country Manager-Consumer Media, Thomson Reuters.


Mr Rhind , in his presentation, stressed on the fact that we all live in an extremely well connected world, where consumers are influenced by choices and validations more so because of the growing social media experience. In such an environment, where consumers have ample choices to choose from, and where they also have the ability and option to avoid all kinds of communication, the big challenge faced by companies and brands is to engage the consumer at an all new level. For this to happen, Mr Rhind emphasized the need for data integration. He said, “Consumers are most likely to share their experiences post-purchase, especially if the experience is negative…” So there is a need for companies to target consumers in a more relevant way, and once that happens, more involved customers will influence a larger group. To target relevant consumers, it is important to ‘integrate and interrogate’ user-level data. Once you have the required data, companies can target the customers with personalized, more creative messages which will enable and encourage ‘dialogue’.


So data integration is important to bring about more meaningful ways of targeting the consumer.


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