Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter depict the trends of our social and political lives. Apart from electronic and print media, sometimes social media platforms are considered more reliable by certain readers. They often end up criticising print and electronic media for not providing them with the kind of news that interests them, and today you can find family members, friends, politicians, state institutions and even heads of states from around the world active on social media. It seems we have entered the age of online propaganda, where immense data sets are used to manipulate public opinion through social media. Both the Brexit referendum, and the 2016 US elections have revealed the limits of modern democracy, and social media platforms are currently setting those limits. Last month, a federal judge in the US ruled that President Trump was not allowed to block people from his private twitter account, no matter how much he disagreed with their opinions, because the move was deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Every political party, most public offices, ministries and departments including the police, as well as the armed forces all share relevant information with the public through social media. Through his personal twitter account, spokesperson for the Army, Major General Asif Ghafoor last month talked about the importance, and power of social media, saying “let’s utilise it positively for a well aware and strong Pakistan”. Like his predecessor, the incumbent DG ISPR is very active on twitter. He issues press releases, his official statements and criticism on state policies through twitter. The forces even had to go through periods of embarrassment due to some of his tweets that were construed to have intervened in state affairs, and had to be subsequently withdrawn with a public apology or announcement. In a TV interview in October of last year, the DG ISPR had criticized the country’s economy, saying that the country’s economic health, if not bad, was not good either. In retaliation the PML-N’s then Federal, Interior and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal took to twitter, and termed this statement as irresponsible and asked the high ranking general to refrain from making such comments on the national economy in the future. On April 29, last year, the DG expressed his displeasure with the Prime Minister office’s inquiry in to the Dawn Leaks investigation, by tweeting that “notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board” and that the request for the Army to explain its position related to this incident was “rejected”. This tweet invited countrywide criticism, as many termed it as an intervention of the armed forces in the affairs of the state, by undermining democratic institutions. As a result, eleven days after this offending tweet went out, the DG eventually decided to delete it. Last Sunday, the DG tweeted that “Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has been requested to initiate appropriate process to ascertain the veracity of the allegations levelled against state institutions”. Interestingly, the Chief Justice of Pakistan took notice of the allegations raised by Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court on the very same day, and appeared before the media, stating that, “Such statements are inconceivable and unacceptable and we will take into consideration all possible legal actions on the matter”. There are rumours that Justice Siddiqui’s constant criticisms of the judiciary and the military are just a ploy to deflect from the charges of corruption against himself. He made controversial remarks against the military during the Faizabad sit-in as well, and recently passed the most controversial judgment against Ahmadis in years, in order to gain the sympathies of the religious elements in the bar Regardless of how serious the allegations are, would it not have been better had the military conveyed its concerns to the CJP or Supreme Judicial Council through proper channels, instead of using such a public forum like Twitter? Thanks to the ISPR for using euphemistic worlds i.e. “honourable” and “requested” for the SC in the tweet, but this message still sends the wrong impression to the public. It makes it look like that the SC is being directed to do its job through a tweet, undermining its authority. This too at a time when rumours are already rife about the judiciary and military’s attempts at trying to bring the PTI and Jeep-clan into power, by victimising the PML-N and its supporters. On the other side, there are rumours that Justice Siddiqui’s constant criticisms of the judiciary and the military are just a ploy to deflect from the charges of corruption against himself. He made controversial remarks against the military during the Faizabad sit-in as well, and recently passed the most controversial judgment against Ahmadis in years in order to gain the sympathies of the religious elements in the bar. Four days back, Justice Siddiqui had raised similar allegations against the intelligence agencies while hearing a case of missing persons, and even sent a copy of his judgment to the Chief of Army staff, asking him to intervene into the matter. Finding that insufficient, on Saturday the judge used the platform of the Rawalpindi District Bar Association to repeat the same allegations which he made against the covert agencies and the Supreme Court. This time, he succeeded in getting the attention of the media, giving fuel to the rumours surrounding the alleged collusion between the military and the Judiciary. It is not only the DG ISPR who has been using the media to his advantage; the CJP and Justice Siddiqui have managed to do the same as well. While social media can be used in different ways, both in a positive and negative way, let us make sure that in the future this highly useful tool can be used as a force for good, and an instrument that can ultimately help save democracy in Pakistan. The writer is a journalist currently based in Canada. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org @RanaTanver Published in Daily Times, July 27th 2018.