The dark side of Facebook
S Madhusudhana Rao
In the wired world, we have come to a stage where if you don’t have a Facebook account, you don’t have a face. With 1.18 billion active users as of March 31, 2015 in the world, the popularity of the social site and its influence on the young and the old and leaders in every field of activity is well documented.
India is next to the US in the number of users and their base has been expanding by leaps and bounds. India has more than 110 million accounts, while the US has 152 million. If the current trend continues, India will overtake the US in a few years.
Thanks to affordable smart phones and Internet penetration, the burgeoning youth population has been swelling the Facebook ranks in this country. With people, known and unknown, connecting and communicating with each other at lightning speed, Facebook has succeeded what the United Nations has not been able to do in uniting the world. If that’s the bright side of FB, its dark side is exploited by uncouth people such as sex maniacs, terrorists, religious fanatics, cheats and elements of that ilk.
Their sinister and diabolic designs that undermine social, family, ethical and religious values come to the fore only when the victims expose them or caught during investigations of cyber crimes. Two cases, both belonging to Hyderabad, show the downside of Facebook and should open the eyes of those who blindly believe whatever FB pals say.
The first case relates to a 21-year-old engineering student, Abdul Majid, from posh Banjara Hills in Hyderabad. It seems he is more interested in seeing girls in nude than engineering subjects. For 18 months Majid had befriended nearly 200 school girls on Facebook posing as a girl and charming them with sweet nothings during his chats. What began as a teenage chit-chat had finally ended up in Majid cajoling the girls to share their intimate details, including their nude pictures. If any girl refused, he either blackmailed or harassed her. Local TV and press reports said, quoting police officials, that Majid had opened eight FB accounts with different female names to make friends with girls from reputed international schools with the sole purpose of collecting their nude photographs.
Majid’s dirty game came to an end when a girl student dared him and went to the police along with her mother. He was apprehended on Friday and a search of his mobile phone revealed hundreds of nude pictures of girls which he could have possibly used to blackmail his victims for sexual favours or to extort money.
This case is bound to ring alarm bells in the homes of school-going girls and trigger a debate on the perils of FB and whether parents should keep an eye on their children’s Facebook activities. But what eludes common sense is why did the girl victims share their secrets and personal details with a totally stranger whom they had not physically seen. Was it a blind faith in FB that whoever had come on line was speaking truth, nothing but truth? Even if we assume Majid had mastered the art of bewitching young girls, why did they oblige his demands for bare pictures?
Answers may be difficult to come by. But what schools could do is to introduce a weekly class for children to educate them on do’s and don’ts while interacting on the social media.
More dangerous than Majid’s modus operandi to lure girls is a 38-year-old woman’s use of Facebook to recruit young men for the dreaded militant organization the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) which is waging wars in several countries in the Middle East to overthrow governments.
Hailing from Tolichowki in Hyderabad, Afsha Jabeen, alias Nicky and Nicole Joseph, was deported from Dubai on Friday where she had been based for several years. Married to a Dubai realtor and mother of three daughters, she was running an FB group called “Islam versus Christianity Friendly Discussions” to draw the attention of young men and women and motivate them to join IS. She was caught in Dubai after a joint operation by Indian and the UAE intelligence units.
In fact, it’s no secret that FB is being used extensively by militant groups to recruit fighters. Despite having several monitoring mechanisms, it’s not possible for any country or organization to filter secret messages radical elements send; or, for that matter, individual chats such as those initiated by Majid to attract school girls. Though both cases are different in nature, the common platform the accused had used was the same and the tactic they had adopted too was also the same: persuasion.
It means the power of persuasion is stronger than pep talk and lecturing. FB users in this country should know the social media and the Internet are double-edged weapons and they should be used with discretion and caution. If the users are unaware of the pitfalls, as in the case of school girls, they should be educated before they join the FB community.