Troll charge on information highway

A new book is the first to document the other side of the hashtag democracy

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | January 17, 2017 | New Delhi


#Social Media   #Twitter   #BJP   #Narendra Modi   #Troll   #Book Review  

Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, is a great fan of Twitter and other social-media forums. As chief minister, this gave him a tech-savvy image, helping to connect with youngsters. As prime minister, he has taken his love for social media to new heights, asking the ministers and ministries to increase their presence on such platforms.

There’s probably nothing wrong with Twitter and Facebook. In the Arab world, it helped people connect against their oppressive rulers and usher in the short-lived Spring revolution. Elsewhere, however, their record is dubious, ushering in the post-truth world.



In India, as in the US, as the political debates become more and more divisive (in Morarji Desai’s time, it must have been difficult to imagine demonetisation as such a passionate business), social media is where the wars are fought. What could not be said in the mainstream media or in public forums, for sake of political correctness or moral norms, can be vented in social media, with or without anonymity. And increasingly people are realising that what they have felt about secularism, nationalism, Jawaharlal Nehru University, job quotas and so on is what thousands of others have also felt. Social media then becomes a multiplier of hate, prejudices and misinformation. So, abuse of people with other opinions is a natural outcome.

Thus, the choicest abuses, expletives and innuendoes are used to attack people based on their political leanings, gender, caste, colour, religion and even appearance. If one is critical of Hindutva or the ultra-nationalism of the BJP or the RSS or any of its affiliates, she or he is viciously targeted by an army of trolls for several days. The reverse is also true though less often: If one supports Modi or Hindutva, he or she is taken on by netizens sympathetic to either Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party (they still lack numbers and are trying to imitate the tactics pioneered by the other side).

Arun Shourie, Kavita Krishnan, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt – they all have faced the worst from the trolls. Some have been forced to quit Twitter too.

So far, this abuse was a matter of anecdotes. Now, Swati Chaturvedi, a journalist, has documented it in her I Am a Troll. She says that the book is the result of nearly two years of research and a series of interviews she did with political leaders, the ‘troll army’ and victims. She has reproduced several tweets with derogatory and vulgar remarks on the left, liberals and journalists by the troll army – many of whom happen to be followed by prime minister Narendra Modi.

The book has received a fair amount of publicity, especially for the investigation into the campaign against Aamir Khan. The film star was attacked, virtually of course, after his comments on the perceived intolerance (which by the way proved his case) in 2015 and an e-commerce firm was forced to drop him as brand ambassador. Chaturvedi shows that it was not a case of spontaneous outpouring from a section of Twitterati but a campaign orchestrated from New Delhi’s 11 Ashoka Road – the BJP headquarters. 

Chaturvedi also describes her own experience of being in the trolls’ crosshairs. She also describes the case of Sadhvi Khosla, a volunteer for the BJP’s ‘Mission 272’ in support of Modi’s election campaign. Khosla is a deeply religious person and an entrepreneur. Though her family supported the Congress, she believed Modi was the redeemer India badly needed, and joined the party’s social media team, aspiring to work towards transforming India. She was also disturbed by the drug menace in Punjab as she had lost a close friend to addiction. She tweeted at least 5,000 times on the plight of drug addicts of Punjab and their families. She tagged these messages to Modi. To her shock, “Mr Modi refused to respond” to tweets regarding a problem as grave as that Punjab faced, though he would not miss greeting trolls on their birthdays.

Khosla was further disillusioned when she saw trolls handing out rape threats to female journalists including Barkha Dutt. She says trolls were given a new target every day for attack with “vile sexual innuendoes, slander, rape and death threats”. Disgusted, she discussed this matter with Ram Madhav, general secretary of the BJP. He told her, “Focus on the positive. These things should be ignored.”
The subtitle of the book is: ‘Inside the secret world of the BJP’s digital army’. That limits the scope of the book and offers only part of the truth. While we wait for a book on the other side of the much-talked-about cyber democracy – the Congress and the AAP –  this book serves as a timely wake-up call.

pratap@governancenow.com


(The book review appears in the January 16-31, 2017 issue)

Comments

 

Other News

Tech firm, telcos prepare to enter 5G era

As the government is set to roll out the 5G spectrum auction, the network providers are also equipping 5th generation network-ready LTE technology.  According to the government, the technology would have an impact of more than $1 trillion on the Indian economy. It is also expected to transform educati

On a personal note: Rabbi Shergill

Punjabi singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Rabbi Shergill rose to fame in 2004 with his chartbuster song ‘Bullah Ki Jaana’ from his debut album ‘Rabbi’. Inspired by rock and Punjabi folk music, he uses Punjabi language to create acoustic rock-based ballads. His poetic and social

NALCO registers Rs 589 crore operating profit in Q3 of 2018-19 FY

National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), country’s leading manufacturer and exporter of alumina and aluminium, has posted an operating profit of Rs 589 crore in Q3 of 2018-19 FY, registering 80 percent growth over the same period of last year.   Net profit of the company

Many electronic companies still have no take-back system: Report

In 2016, 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste was generated globally which is expected to increase to 52.2 million tonnes in 2021. As of 2016, it was found out that India is the second and fifth highest generator (in Asia and globally respectively) of e-waste with 2 million tonnes. The mounting pile of e-waste h

India’s per capita power consumption likely to grow by two fold, says power minister

Union power minister RK Singh has said the per capita current power consumption of 1,200 units is expected to grow 2-3 times at par with the international consumption after every Indian gets access to electricity. Singh said the power sector is witnessing an increased demand which is further expect

Net profit of Rs 616 crore posted by SAIL in Q3 of 2018-19

SAIL has posted a profit (profit after tax) of Rs 616 crore in Q3 of 2018-19 FY. SAIL has managed to better its performance over the previous quarter as well by more than 11 percent when it stood at Rs 554 crore. The turnover for Q3 FY’19 improved by three percent over corresponding period of

Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter