NCWC raises concerns over privacy and rights of children on social media

In recent times, there has been a disturbing trend of sharing content on social media that infringes upon the privacy, dignity, and rights of children and vulnerable individuals.

On 23 August, the Women and Children Division, Secretariat to the National Commission for Women and Children, in collaboration with the Department of Education Programme under the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, issued a public notice regarding the alarming rise in the sharing of unacceptable content involving children and vulnerable groups on various social media platforms and digital channels.

An official from the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) said, “It is our duty, as responsible citizens, to protect the identity, privacy, and development of children and vulnerable members of our society. Sharing sensitive content without consent not only violates their rights but also exposes them to potential harm.”

“What we have noticed is that people usually consent to being in a social media post without knowing the long-term consequences. We have received multiple grievances from people who were distressed to be in a post after it went viral,” he added.

The official said, “Two stroke patients, were disturbed by the fact their pictures were uploaded, although it was for a good cause.”

Similarly, 22-year-old Dechen Wangmo said her photo was uploaded without her knowledge on Facebook.

She said, “Right now I am taking driving classes, and my driving instructor asked me to take a picture with him because he said he has lots of pictures with his other students, and after his persistent request, I took a picture with him. But later I found out he made it his profile picture on Facebook.”

“I was scared, angry, and worried about what my family would say if they saw my picture with him. I am from a conservative family, and these things are not tolerated,” she added.

Dechen Wangmo said that her immediate move was to inform her friends and call that person to remove the picture, and after much argument, she was able to get her photo taken down.

Pema Dechen is rising a Tik Toker with a following of seven thousand.

Pema Dechen said, “I have been using the medium for a long time now, and I know how to deal with negative comments, but I feel emphatic towards those who are neither content creators nor vloggers, as they do not know how to deal with it,” she added.

Another victim, whose video was taken without his consent, shares his story.

“A video of me and my friend was taken while walking across the street by my other friend when they saw me. Upon reaching home, he made sure to show it to everyone in our friend group. This was the first instance, and I did not know how to react immediately towards him, but I was sure I was really agitated as I am a firm believer in the right to privacy,” said Tshering Wangchuk.

“I am paranoid now, I make sure to look around and see if he is around or not while I go around,” he added.

He said that he did not know this incident could have a tormenting impact on his life, although his friend’s intention was just to tease him around.

Rada, a resident of Punakha, said, “Privacy is a fundamental right, and sharing someone’s pictures or videos without their consent is a clear violation of that right. It’s alarming how some individuals can be so insensitive to the fact that these actions can have serious emotional and psychological consequences for the person involved.”

She said that the emotional impact of having personal pictures or videos shared without consent can be significant. It’s not just about privacy; it’s about feeling violated and betrayed. We need to educate individuals about the consequences of their actions and create a culture of empathy and respect, both online and offline she added..

Understanding the importance of the right to consent and privacy, NCWC and the Department of Education Program are going to develop child online protection guidelines.

The official stressed that sharing content without proper consent or in a manner that violates privacy is ethically wrong and can have severe legal repercussions.

The official notification was issued recognizing the importance of inculcating prior decision-making, such as asking for consent, and the need to elaborate on the effects of being in a social media post.

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