The use and abuse of WeChat and other apps

Mobile Apps, like WeChat, Viber, Hike and WhatsApp are increasingly becoming popular with people of all age groups in Bhutan. WeChat tops the list of mobile apps as users find it easy to use.

However, many users are wary of using such mobile apps as it has both positive and negative impact. For the illiterate mass, the mobile apps allow people to communicate through voice messages instead of text messages.

Some of the negative impacts of using the mobile apps are that illegal videos, like pornography, racist jokes and harmful content can be easily leaked and spread to anyone using the apps.

According Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), leaking or sharing of illegal videos is a crime, whereby the individual will be dealt as per the law.

As per the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004, Section 476, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of computer pornography, if the defendant publishes and distributes an obscene photograph or picture on the computer or over the internet.

Even the internet service provider, who knowingly acts as a host for pornographic material or acts as a channel for the image to be transmitted to an individual will be booked for criminal offence.

Grading of computer pornography under Penal Code of Bhutan, Section 477, states that the offence of computer pornography shall be counted as a misdemeanour.

An official at RBP said, “Reducing such types of crime depends upon individuals, and it is an individual responsibility to stop them from leaking,” further adding that if any persons is caught leaking such illegal videos then they are liable for crime offences.

RBP official also cautioned people who are constantly on the internet and updating their status that indirectly help criminals in committing crimes. “We can’t interfere in the personal life of others; they can do what they want, but make sure to be safe and careful.”

“To stop leaking of illegal videos, be a responsible individual, stop updating your status and don’t do what others want you to do or make yourself aware of what you are doing,” the RBP official said.

A 50-year-old woman who is illiterate said that the mobile app, WeChat, is useful for her since she can keep in touch with her loved ones without any difficulty.

She said, “I do a voice chat with my relatives in the village and keep up with their daily status, especially with regard to health.” She also pointed out that it is a cheaper mode of communication as the amount charged is less than making phone calls to the village.

Similarly, a 65-year-old man said he used to talk to his family members in his village just once in a week as it was costly to call. But now, with the use of WeChat, he said he talks to his loved every day as if in person.

“It feels great that I can atleast keep in touch with my close ones. Before, I didn’t know how to use, I kept on asking for help from others and now, I can use without any difficulties. But I still don’t know how to send photos or stickers,” he said with a smile.

Most office-goers have made it a habit to use their mobile apps as they are constantly on chat or sharing videos. A private employee, Tshering, said that she will not encourage her children to use the mobile apps since there is a high chance of misusing such apps and getting into trouble with the law.

“It has both negative and positive impact, but what matters is how every individual deals with it,” a civil servant added.

Meanwhile, there is a big demand for the mobile apps. A mobile shop owner, 28, said that he receives many customers who wanted to install WeChat on their mobile phones.

He said, “It is our business and we do what they want, but what we hear today is that married couples get divorced due to this app, or illegal videos are being leaked and many more issues related to such apps.”

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