Guest Column: Lynching on Social Media: Anjana Om Kashyap

Twitter is more and more becoming a vent for people who are compulsive abusers but just lacked a medium to do so openly. They hide behind anonymity and strike from the dark, observes Anjana Om Kashyap, Editor and Senior Anchor at Aaj Tak

e4m by Anjana Om Kashyap
Updated: Jul 15, 2015 8:40 AM
Guest Column: Lynching on Social Media: Anjana Om Kashyap


‘You should be treated worse than Nirbhaya’, wrote a troll on her timeline when a colleague tweeted on a Minister’s fake degree.

‘Send your mother, what is her current rate for a night ?’,stared from his timeline when a friend tweeted on Muzaffarnagar riots .

‘She was sexually abused as a child so is against selfie with father’,is what she was told when Shruti Seth tweeted on #SelfieWithDaughter .

Trolls screeched ‘ I will make you sit on a broken wine bottle ’when a  Turkish journalist reported on protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Ugly, Abusive, Violent and Sexual . The Twitter experience is almost like public lynching for many .Within minutes, rape threats to ugly abuses compete with your refresh button on Twitter . Cowards hiding in the dark spaces of the virtual world unleash their wrath on you , all because you have dared to dissent . You tediously crisp and chop to say what you have to in 144 characters and trolls swear they will make you curse the moment you decided to tweet. The sleeping cell for crouching trolls rises to inflict insult.

The abusive virtual world has become a reality. In India their obsession with mother, sister and the brothel make them so predictably ugly. They insult you and then dare you. They are desperate for reaction .They bait. Then wait. They then press the accelerator. They increase the vulgarity quotient. Perverse brains work overtime, dig from the warehouse of abuses to create new variations of old boring ones and you are showered with further venom.  Degree varies. In a country where the Defence Minister’s contribution to social media is his coinage of ‘presstitute’, we can understand how Twitter is more and more becoming a vent for people who are compulsive abusers but just lacked a medium to do so openly. They hide behind anonymity and strike from the dark. Their twitter handles lack real name and identity but their hatred is real, laced with racial slurs/comments on your physical appearance .They are unguided missiles.  They sure have made walking the virtual clouds a risky ride .

This is a worldwide phenomenon . A Turkish journalist filed reports on the protests and a fierce attack followed on Twitter . ‘I received hundreds of tweets using obscene language , threatening to kill me , threatening to rape me . I am frightened for my physical safety when I am out on the streets,"she says .

Back home from Shahrukh Khan to Salman Khan, such virtual mudslinging has actually forced them to take a sabbatical from Twitter . Celebs come here to connect with their fans in a personal way, but it ends at facing wrath from those who dislike your work. SRK decided to quit Twitter and his last tweet read, "Sad, I read so much judgements, jingoism, religious intolerance on the net & I use to think,this platform wl change narrowmindedness,but no!(sic)" . He came back though when he wanted to reconnect with fans before the release of Ra One. Salman took a similar sabbatical from Twitter with this tweet,   “Don't want them to fight or turn nasty, ugly, abusive. Twitter shld also block abusive language, how difficult is that .”

Many journalists in India have faced relentless harassment for just doing their job . Coward minds hit where it hurts the most. Hindi abuses don't stick as much as the 'sold out ' tag . Gen VK Singh said 'presstitute' and trolls coined ' preshya' for Hindi. Their mental horizon stands revealed .

It affects. No denial. It reaches & it disturbs . The state of politics in this country has also made it vicious . Actor Shruti Seth wrote her criticism of Prime Minister Modi’s #SelfieWithDaughter was met with death threats, racial slurs, derogatory remarks at her being a woman and a lot more. She criticized the campaign and called Modi ‘selfie obsessed PM’ and the floodgates of hell opened on Twitter. 48 hours of ugly backlash from Twitterati followed.

The mix of sexism and the misogynist attitude was as dark as it could get. She then wrote an open letter to the trolls .  She said it was like stripping her of all her dignity as a woman. Yes, if you are a woman celeb , you will be tossed around on forkpoint for being sexually abused/ sex starved/ sex worker with the most ugly creative permutations and combinations .

Does being a woman make the Twitter experience even more venomous for a celeb?

Well, according to an analysis (quoted by Daily Mail)of more than 2million messages sent to celebrities, politicians and journalists - Men get more than twice as much abuse as women on Twitter, but they're also the ones behind most of the trolling. One message in every 20 sent to prominent males was abusive compared to one in 70 for females.
The study also revealed female journalists and male politicians are more likely to bear the brunt of bullying.

Now that Prime minister Modi has also said that politeness should be the hallmark of the Twitter sena in a recent meeting with them, do I expect the onslaught to change . Well , frankly no. And  this one is to all the trolls from my side .You have actually sabotaged your own net identity.  You function with wired handle names like @FindingKhaini or @Desibakwaas or @hallagullaboy , just so that you can abuse others freely . You are actually abusing your own identity. Big companies now do a thorough check up of your web identity from Facebook to Twitter before hiring you .People are being rejected because of shady net activity.
Also do remember you can harass only till someone decides to complain . Beware . Section 67/67A of the IT Act and Sec 509  of the Indian Penal Code can put you behind bars for upto 3 years . Man whose tweet led to emergency landing of Jet Airways flight has been traced to Jaipur. You are traceable, dear trolls !

As for those at the receiving end of troll wrath , the abuse is designed to make you leave public places in the virtual world .The reaction to it should be ignore , defy , stay online and stay visible to shame the trolls into oblivion.

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