The proof of the pudding lies in the eating and even now, when I point this out, you can be sure that PTI loyalists will not revert with any solid counter-arguments but only attacks on me, my party and my family. Social media was meant to facilitate political discourse, as indeed it does in many countries, but in our part of the world it has only made it more polarised and far more toxic. Speaking from my own experience I find it unfortunate that much of the time I’m attacked by the ruling party not because of the political positions I take or the bills I introduce in the assembly, but rather because of my gender and appearance because I happen to be a young, female politician that belongs to a prominent opposition party. And I need look no further than my party leadership, especially Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, to see just how the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party has employed a large social media workforce dedicated to mounting personal attacks on prominent politicians that question their legitimacy. Left with no plausible justifications for their policies, which have hurt the economy, isolated Pakistan diplomatically and endangered state institutions, they litter social media with below-the-belt attacks on opposition politicians and their families. It seems we live in a time when it is very easy to take everything that the internet has brought to the world for granted, and it is just as easy to ignore all the pitfalls. For one of the things to be celebrated most about the internet revolution, even more than easy access to so much information on such a large scale, was what was eventually called democratisation of expression. No doubt citizens have had the inherent right to free speech, at least in the world’s better established democracies, but never had so many people been able to have their voices heard, or their thoughts read, on such a large scale at the same time ever before. This was supposed to change the world forever, and in many ways it did just that. All that was needed was for images to go viral of a fruit seller setting himself on fire because of a sitting minister’s abuse and you could suddenly have something as big and deep as the Arab Spring. A passerby’s video grab of a policeman strangulating a social outcast with his knee has just to ride the internet to unleash a storm that can shake the most powerful government in the world. Twitter threads with large enough volume can bring the problems of the people to the doors of the rulers far faster than any machinery of any state in the world. In our country however such tools have instead become devices that further divide society. Instead of enabling greater inclusiveness and participation they have ended up promoting far more abuse, absurdity, and what the new generation calls trolling. In effect social media has already amplified our society’s deep divisions and cleavages. And it is very unfortunate that such trends have been and continue to be unnecessarily fanned by the ruling party of the country. The proof of the pudding lies in the eating and even now, when I point this out, you can be sure that PTI loyalists will not revert with any solid counter-arguments but only attacks on me, my party and my family. And they seem to feel that if enough of them can make the same kind of noise for too long then they win the day and that is the end of the matter. But, at the end of the day, all this only means that we are using this precious ‘information superhighway’ for all the wrong reasons and leaving society more polarised than ever before. The world’s more advanced countries have had the good sense to put the right kind of restrictions on the right to speech on social media. For even when the president of the United States of America endangered the system and people’s lives with his Tweets and comments, he was promptly banned. In our corner of the world, however, you face stiff restrictions on talking about certain institutions and individuals, but never about attitudes and expressions that are truly harmful; not just for individuals but for society as a whole as well. The silver lining on this particularly dark cloud is that it is possible for us to fight within the same space and reclaim it. All that is needed for all regressive stones that are thrown from the side is for progressives among us to pick them up and toss them aside to clear the way.