While Pakistan has always faced criticism for not having completely fair and free elections, it seems that rigging and foreign meddling is a universal phenomenon now. United States’ Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday announced the indictments of 13 Russian nationals and three companies for alleged interference with the 2016 election.

It is alleged that the accused interfered with the election, through posing as Americans on social media accounts that focused on divisive tactics and targeting particular candidates. The United States does not allow foreign nationals to make certain expenditures pertaining to the elections and campaigning, which is also a charge on the indictment. The indictment identifies the Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg-based group to which millions of impostor social media accounts have been traced, as a primary offender.

It is certainly a new world, where the leader of the free world, the United States, is conducting an investigation on the use of social media in interference of its election. It is a reflection of the change of view of the internet, and social media sites; where eight years ago, social media was seen as a tool where citizens could discuss politics in a way that was never offered to them before, and it was hoped that it would serve as a tool for unity and overcoming divisions.

While this interfering through social media is a nuisance and may have been a factor in inducing the most decisive election in American history, the US must be very careful upon setting a precedent. This controversy has put Facebook and Twitter in the hot seat, which are trying to contain the crisis. In a statement Friday, Facebook emphasised that it had already acknowledged the Russian attack and was cooperating with law enforcement and was doubling the number of people working on security to 20,000. However, this begs the question on where the line is to be drawn-whereas, the charm of social media was that it was available to everybody, now we are questioning what level of political debate we will allow.

Bots and trolls, giving the most distasteful and divisive of statements, behind a black mirror, is a menace Pakistani politics has also seen, and must be wary of. The US controversy will have trickledown effect, and if Facebook or Twitter will start cashing down on bots, then our political parties will also lose valuable social media tools.