Hindustan Times launched Let’s Talk About Trolls with one aim in mind: to focus attention on the vitriolic abuse and threats online. Social media is a space that empowers marginalised voices, a space for dissent, even argument. But lately, this space has been overtaken by name-calling, swear words, death threats. For women in the public eye, this vicious abuse often translates into sexual slurs and rape threats.
The first-person accounts by Gurmehar Kaur, Barkha Dutt, Rana Ayyub, Sonam Kapoor and Madhu Kishwar evoked a strong response from our readers. Here is what they had to say:
Ugly trolls can never curb my spirit: Chetana Thirthahalli
I am a freelance Kannada journalist and I have been active on social media for six years now. I use social media for “media activism”. I criticise governments—both state and central--and their policies. For this, I have got threats of death, rape, and acid attack from right wing goons. They troll me in the ugliest manner.
In 2015, I lodged a complaint against a person who threatened me on Facebook. He was arrested recently, but right wing goons continue to troll me. They tag me and warn me against questioning PM Modi or criticising Hindu fanatics.
But I am not afraid. I know well they can’t do anything. These ugly trolls can never curb my spirit.
Be ready to face social media flak for your views: Partho Banerjee
Let’s get this clear and straight: Abuse or threat in any form is unacceptable and this is irrespective of gender.
I get a feeling that some women journalists are trying to deflect the cause to symptom and make it a gender issue. Men also get abused, except they are perhaps not threatened with rape. Social media abuse should stop, but at the same time journalists should know if they take a polarised stand the response they get may not always be pleasant.
People like Barkha Dutt must know that traditional media, including television, is a one way communication. When she is on social media, society gets involved in a two-way communication. That communication reflects the general communication standards of the society.
Being patriotic is not being a bhakt: Arindam Kar
I have never voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party or supported the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, but if I comment against organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba or Hizbul Mujahideen I am called a “bhakt”.
If BJP leaders will talk about peace with Pakistan, it’s justified. But if any Bollywood Khan talks about peace with Pakistan, he will be called a traitor.
Aamir Khan acted in the Sarfarosh, Irrfan Khan in D-Day, Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday, Saif Ali Khan in Phantom-- we say these are all patriotic movies. But when Akshay Kumar acted in Baby and Holiday, people abuse him on Twitter as a “bhakt”. All these movies talked about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
I still believe that an Indians and a Pakistanis citizen can be friends, but let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s say Pakistan promotes terrorism.
Trolls are disgusting; they pick on the weak: Jayesh Desai
Trolls are the kind of people who will beat up and humiliate the weak but instantly bow down before the powerful--much like the hyenas in movie The Lion King. It’s alarming to know that we are living among such a large number of sick persons who have lost all sense of decency and decorum.
Silence trolls by speaking up like Gurmehar: Manjeet Singh Ishar
Trolls and their threats didn’t scare Gurmehar Kaur who silenced her detractors by speaking out against them. Having said what she considered to be right in her wisdom, she decided to leave the scene and that I think was correct. The majority of Indians are in her favour. The country definitely needs youth icons like her.
Left, liberal lobby doesn’t allow dissent: Mahesh Nayak
There is a feeling of revulsion at attempts to glorify the discredited views of the “Left and liberal” lobby which leads an opulent lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense. Journalists, who propagate the same views, are being targeted because their views are one-sided, and every conversation this lobby has puts the “other “-- the right wing -- on the defensive. There is no question of allowing an open debate.