“Sharing” in the Facebook: What would it constitute?

Now that the judgment was out (you know which judgment I am referring to), and that the defendants have decided not to appeal (BBS) it would be interesting to first analyse my points of view, and then hear from all fellow lawyers, or to that end, from every Facebooker, your interpretive definition of “what constitute sharing”?

If you are using Tweeter, or those of us who tweet, we know there is something called “retweet” button. In the Facebook, there is something called “share” button. In the WeChat, there is “forward” button. Whichever social apps we use, there is a “button” which enable us to “share” with thousands of our friends in and around the world. Whether we retweet or share or forward, intelligently or negligently, we are committing some “act” here. Can retweet be labelled as “endorsement”? Does “sharing” in Facebook amount to our own personal act? Or does it simply mean we are “referring” to somebody’s work? What curiosity and intuition direct us to share that particular posts or videos? Obviously, we share selectively few and not everything that we see in the Facebook.

In this post, I shall try to provide some provoking insights on what would constitute “sharing in the Facebook.” However, my analytical thoughts would be rather limited to my own individual personal experience as a person who use Facebook and Twitter almost on a daily basis.

First thing first, let me write what I mostly share in the Facebook. I love laughter, and I see and share those pictures and clips which will make people laugh. I love learning, and share those information that will enable people to learn. Information is power, so I share almost all informative posts.

What I don’t share? I don’t share those hatred and angered Facebook “status.” I don’t share dirty clips. I don’t share person’s profile picture or albums. And I don’t share controversial issue(s), because sharing those would require further information and  analysis that will give me a reasonable ground to believe that the information contained in the post are true and correct.

Now, let me come to the above questions. What is “sharing”?

The word “sharing” entails two things – first, sharing of already given information (the information has been already given before), and second, those parts that express new information. For the purpose of my analysis, by “sharing” I mean sharing of those already given information.

Literal definition of sharing encompasses “to talk about one’s thoughts, feelings, or experience with others.” We share our training and workshop experiences with colleagues. Information sharing is an exchange of data and idea between organizations, people and technologies. So when we “share,” it might amount to talking about one’s thought and feeling with the readers of your potential friend lists or followers. This argument however need further examination.

In a deeper thought, I, for one, believe that “sharing” is something similar to that of “running a newspaper” or “news station” of our own. Holding a smart phone, posting in the Facebook, writing emotional thoughts, provoking others, or sharing other’s post is equivalent to “gathering the news and reporting” by a recognized media house. Almost anyone anywhere with a smartphone, in this technological word, becomes a journalist when they see something happening, snap a photo, and upload it to Twitter or Facebook. They become a primary source of information. And by “sharing” what is uploaded already, you become a source of information to those who do not follow the person who has uploaded first.

To given an example, supposing that I have violated a traffic rule, and that I do not want to know anyone except me and the traffic police. Unfortunately, Mr. Karma has taken a picture and immediately posted in his Facebook page which he has one hundred friends including you. Now you have shared the story who will access by your one thousand friends. Considering that you and Karma have just five mutual friends, and in such a situation, interpreting that all of your Facebook friends have seen what you have shared, you are becoming a prime source of information to those 995 people in the Facebook.

To substantiate this argument with simple analogy, I recollect the Royal Bhutan Police’s announcement seeking everyone’s supports to stop “sharing” the Bhutanese made pornography clips; and also the so called “animated regionalism” clip. We also remember taking legal action for viral “sharing” of two-lover’s suicide picture that happened somewhere in Bumthang. Supposing that you have “forwarded” from your WeChat account to a group consisting of 500 members, then you are becoming a “source” of information for that particular clips. By sharing, you become a distributor that otherwise would not have been seen by your friends. Because this is not right, Bhutan Penal Code criminalizes both making and distribution of pornography.

Drawing analogy from the above example, the question here is: “will I be liable for “sharing” a Facebook post or information, which later turns to be highly contested on the basis of truthfulness? Does sharing also mean “distributing” amongst the friends of your’s? I think answer is given within.

When I draw analogy from the pornography clip, I know many will think that this is a completely different situation. Why do we think “sharing” of pornography is completely different from sharing a normal Facebook status? The answer could be because we think that the “act of pornography” itself is wrong and that “sharing” would further cause damage. Here, we know what is wrong and right. Similarly, when we share any Facebook status, we should be knowing what is wrong and right, and when we share, we commit ourselves that the information provided are correct and right.

When I say this, I am mindful of the doctrine of remoteness as it stands in the law of tort. Obviously, the immediate and the remoteness of source of sharing and distribution will play a major role in interpretation. However, we would also argue that it depends from case to case basis, and that is where I argue that we got to know what is right and wrong before we actually share something.

Specifically speaking, we hardly have any law on this issue, and perhaps, it would be thought provoking for us to reflect and analyse for our own benefit. Constitutional guarantee of right to information would not suffice us to “share” everything on our tablets, and right to speech and expression is not an absolute freedom. When I say this I am not concluding that we cannot click the “share” button. At the end of the day, we have a complete control over the mouse, and we have a complete freedom to exercise which button to be clicked. But it is also important to ensure that we thoroughly understand what is truth in it. The normative tip of the iceberg visible to our eyes can be better understood if the particular below the factual water surface is also looked at. Until then, either we control our computer mouse or the pointing finger from clicking the “share” button or we further investigate before we “share” so that we do not have to knee down for just “sharing” out of curiosity.

Disclaimer:

The day the case was registered with the judiciary, the question of “what constitute sharing” interested me more than the case itself. Therefore, in this post, I only provide purely my personal expression of what would constitute “sharing” and nothing more. As you have seen, I neither intend to provide any judgment of the concerned case nor do I try to defile the system or persons in any manner whatsoever.

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