Online Trolling In India: What You Need To Know And Do When Trolled!

By: Fatema Zohair

Published On: July 09, 2018

Unlike the cute caricatures in your favourite animated movies, online trolls are living and breathing humans who thrive on attention and stoop to nasty trouble-making on internet powered platforms such as news group, forums, chat rooms and blogs in order to elicit a reaction. According to Wikipedia, their motive is to start a quarrel on the internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.

Two online studies showed a clear correlation between people who enjoyed trolling and the Dark Tetrad of Personality Traits such sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.

As per the Online Disinhibition Effect (Suler, 2004) online trolling stems from the shield of anonymity offered over the internet, powering a You-Can’t-See-Me attitude.

One of the most well known victim is Anushka Sharma who was termed as (and still is!) “unlucky” for husband, Kohli’s cricketing career. Every time the cricketer failed to rise to the expectations of cricket fans, Sharma would get openly harassed, belittled, made memes on and blatantly blamed. 

What’s interesting is that the cricketer’s victories were his, but his failures were a result of his wife.A troll-favorite Uday Chopra had an amusing suggestion on how to deal with trolls, which, however, led him on the receiving end of immense backlash.

uday-chopra-trolled-online

Setting aside sarcasm however, researchers from Brunel University and Goldsmiths, University of London found that men were more likely than women to use Facebook with antisocial motives – and it might have to do with them being more narcissistic. It’s no surprise then that more women as opposed to men are the targets of such trolling.

Examples of this can be reflected in two recent events. In July 2018, Priyanka Chaturvedi, the 38 year old National Spokesperson of Congress was threatened with the rape of her 10 year old child by a Twitter handle user. The irony is that the handle had Lord Ram as its picture. Chaturvedi addressed that the trolling began after a fake quote of her on a recent gang-rape of a 7 year old supporting the accused, circulated over social media. The tweet is now unavailable.

Chaturvedi then took to social media to promote the harassment and filed a legal complaint against the troller. After the intervention of the Union Home Ministry, the arrest of Girish Maheshwar under sections of POSCO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) as well as the IT Act. The accused is a resident of Ahmedabad’s Bavala area.

This occurred during the ongoing and much publicized case of Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister of External Affairs. The former Supreme Court Lawyer was bullied and harassed across social media by Right Wing Trolls for issuing an interfaith couple with a passport and transferring the departmental officer who denied them the same. She was put under scrutiny for “appeasing” Muslims. Swaraj put out a poll on Twitter asking whether such kind of trolling was deemed acceptable. The poll had over 1 lakh voters, 43% of which backed the trolls on her page.

mukesh gupta-tweet

The former Union Minister, P Chidambaram calls these trolls “the new pracharaks”. He says that the trolls are much like mobs darkening the virtual world. “They are intolerant, rude, coarse, vulgar and violent. Their weapons are hate speech and fake news. They may not kill, but I suspect that many of them, if he or she was part of a violent mob in the real world, would not hesitate to do so.”

Trolls versus Cyber Bullies: Is there a difference?

Trolls tend to be more focused on online communities and groups. Their end goal is to bring attention to themselves. Cyber bullies on the other hand, isolate the victim and try to bring them distress. Their aim is to embarrass and intimidate a single person. They go about this in various ways, from leaking private pictures and videos to sending them threatening, mean spirited texts. Mentioned below are the 6 sections that protect people against cyber bullying:

cyber-bullying-laws-in-india

What are some of the steps taken by social media platforms to ensure safety of users?

Instagram rolled out a new comment filtering tool recently, allowing celebrities to sieve out offensive language and hate speech in their comment section. They can either block out a default list of words deemed by Instagram as offensive or customize their own list that they think to be distasteful.

Another feature, usable by all Instagrammers, is the disabling of the comment section altogether, using which, other followers can like your picture but won’t be able to leave a comment below it, good or bad.

Microsoft has created a web form where users can report hateful comments along with an appeal feature where people can request reinstatement of content that customers feel was disabled in error through petitions.

Jacqueline Beauchere, who is the Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer says, “When hate speech is reported to us, we will evaluate each complaint, consider context and other factors, and determine appropriate action with respect to the content and the user’s account.”

Lastly, all social media sites have an option to “Report Abuse”.

But is this enough?

UK business solutions provider Iris’ Head of Platforms and Distribution, Digby Lewis suggests that since social media is more of a visual experience, platforms should also introduce filtering algorithms that moderate images.

Snapchat has adopted a facial recognition technology to safeguard against trolls on social media. Apps like Instagram are also adopting similar features to curb the rapidly increase  in online visual trolling.

The varying internet culture around the world

Just as there are different kinds of trolls (from Grammar Nazis, Stalkers, frauds), the nature of trolling also differs around the world.

We can see Priyanka Chopra’s comment section filled with trolls and abusers, telling her that she has let down India with the kind of clothes that she wears or how she needs to be more “sanskaari”.

priyanka-chopra-trolled-online

Last seen in a movie in 2010, Fardeen Khan found himself trolled for his weight gain. The 44 year old wrote an open letter to his trolls and quickly showed them that they didn’t get to him.

Fat-shaming in Bollywood is not a new event with stars such as Parineeti Chopra, Adnan Sami, Sonakshi Sinha and Arpita Khan being mocked in demeaning ways for their weight. 

In the west, Leslie Jones, starring in the all female remake of Ghostbusters, was subjected to racist speech, hateful memes and even pornography.

leslie-jones-trolled-online

What are some of the best ways to deal with trolls?

While India is still a long way from providing legal measures to safeguard against online trolling, here are 3 ways you can respond to trolling:

1: Silence is Golden: Ignore them. In reality, trolls are merely cowards who seek to validate their existence over the internet. The best response is no response. Let them stew in their own negativity.

2: Laugh them away: Understand that trollers success depends on how agitated they can make you. A well thought, funny response shows them you are undeterred by useless rants such as theirs.

abhishek-bachchan-twitter-trolls

3: Kindness wins: No, I am not trying to preach here. This really works. The nicer and calmer you are the more confused they get. Let’s kill it with kindness.

With evolving technology, trolls will always find a way to get their word in, but remember it’s only your response that gets them recognition. At the end of the day, the ball is in your court.

We suggest you also read: 

4 Times The Internet Emerged As A Weapon Against Sexual Harassment 

How To Be A Woman In The India Of 2018

If you have any comments and feedback related to this article, write to us at engage@impactguru.com


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