Thursday, 9 July 2015

Internet Trolling : Studying it's current scenario

Before I begin the article, it’s important for the readers to know what Internet trolling really means, it means - is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.
The issue of internet trolling has become of great concern specifically in the last 4-5 years with new cases of cyber bullying emerging almost every week, all around the globe. The stats suggest that 28% of American internet users admit candidly to being internet trolls. Further, as per a study, it is shown that the bulk of these internet trolls are on the social media platform of twitter i.e. 88% to be precise.

The reason why internet trolling has become a unanimous reason of concern all around the globe among internet users it because it is greatly affecting everyone from celebrities to the common man. To name one such recent case is that of; Sue Perkins, the British TV host, gave up using twitter after she received death threats merely because some users had suggested that she should replace Jeremy Clarkson as the new host of Top Gear, such is the extend to which internet trolling can affect the life of an internet user.

The fancy life of celebrities from the outside looks to be filled with glamour and praises coming from different parts of the world. Be it their active social life in the real world or the virtual world, the admiration for them is ought to be there, after all they lead a life in the public eye – where every noted move from them results in praises or backlash from the fans.

In such a case scenario, the life of a celebrity certainly can’t be as easy as it looks from the outside. One of the most heated topics of discussion these days is that of; “do celebrities have a right to privacy”! In fact, in a recent debate competition held across schools in Gurgaon, the students were asked to give a speech on the same – few of whom spoke for it and some against it; my stand on it was “YES”, they do have a right to privacy.

Consider this, if a celebrity is victim of derogatory statement being passed by a sexist troll on the internet, who has no sense of respect for the dignity of a woman; what is the celebrity expected to do then! In all honesty, we all post photos from our day to day life; after all – we’re the selfie generation BUT there’s a fine line between praising someone and taking leverage of the fact that there exist a huge difference between real world and the virtual world. Sexist trolls usually get away making derogatory statements to celebrities on the social media platform which makes room for another argument; leave apart the argument of right to privacy for a second, for a celebrity that lives in the public eye – don’t they have a RIGHT TO BEING RESPECTED.

While we’re on the subject of internet trolls, we must also come into terms with the fact that it’s not only the celebrities that are prone to being victimized by sexist internet trolls; there have been numerous cases of internet users reporting insensitive, sexist, derogatory statements being passed on their photos, which is what we term “online harassment”.

To point out the extent to which online harassment can go and affect the lives of prominent people in their respective industries, the case of Brianna Wu, a woman who started a #GamerGate movement, which was regarding ethics in video games journalism, was prone of backlash from twitter users with one internet troll tweeting death threats to her. The situation got so sensitive to Wu that police came to her house and she along with her husband were moved to some place safe. She tweeted and I quote “The police just came by. Husband and I are going somewhere safe. Remember, #gamergate isn't about attacking women.” “I want to be crystal clear - I am scared of the death threats I've gotten. I am terrified of the #gamergate blame-the-victim witch hunt.”
The degree to which what happens on the net can affect people is truly devastating and it becomes increasingly difficult for celebrities for instance to decide whether they shall reply to such trolls, consider them as just someone who shouldn’t be taken seriously or do what the Indian actress, Vishaka Singh did.

Before I talk about what happened with Vishaka Singh and take the discussion about what’s relevant and what becomes inappropriate on social media, let me just state something that I feel is extremely critical. With the notion of women empowerment taking it’s course in India, it’s absolutely sickening to note that the problem of indignifying an Indian women isn't a problem faced just by the real world but further goes onto the "virtual world". 

Internet is filled with trolls who seek leverage of the fact that what they say to celebrities doesn’t vouch for much; because according to them "the virtual world is a place of fun but it wasn’t till recently when Vishaka Singh decided that it was time to take a stand and what followed was the apt course of action, a befitting reply to an internet troll.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I’m all for celebrity’s right to privacy and a celebrity’s right to be respected like all of us shall be - both in the real world and in the virtual world. When someone does cross the line then just as Vishaka did; they must be replied back accordingly and made to learn the lesson that not only is it unacceptable to pass derogatory statements on a woman’s picture, it should further be brought into the public eye and such trolls shall be named and shamed.

It’s not just Vishaka whose the first from the Bollywood to be a sufferer of internet trolls, the very acclaimed popular star of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, in fact went onto the extend of leaving twitter due to “being hurt” over the statements passed about him by internet trolls. He of course joined twitter back after a few months but it is in itself enough to highlight the degree to which internet trolling can affect even the biggest of the celebrities; who are used to praises and critics but when it gets personal, it surely does hurt.

Of course there is another angle to the way women are being treated on the social media platforms these days; the way they’re being prone to face disrespect and a lack of privacy from even the leading media, pardon me “TABLOIDS” that go to any extend to report the so called “masala news”.
People who pass derogatory remarks on celebrities and tweet to them/write on their FB walls to hurt them, show their rage for no apparent reason, be simply disrespectful and awfully insensitive are referred to as “trolls” but what if; a leading newspaper reports about a leading Bollywood actress and posts a picture with no sense of privacy and respect for leave apart the celebrity aspect for a second, but emphasize on “respect for a woman”.  I frankly believe that such a person can’t be referred to as a writer, but in fact a “sexist troll” who has no business reporting about the lives of Indian celebrities.
To conclude with; I’ve tried to cover the aspect of how trolling on internet is becoming a rant issue of concern. Not only does it hurt the sentiments of the people who face the internet trolls; it affects their lives in a significant way; leading even to depression due to the “online harassment”.

The youth of India which is the major user of the social media platforms has proved however that it does has it’s concerns over internet trolling or else the support for Vishaka Singh, Shah Rukh Khan and even Deepika Padukone wouldn’t have been by in large so momentous that their voices were heard and efforts were made to teach these internet trolls a lesson.

The question I want to raise at the conclusion of this article is this; - 1) do you stand with the right to privacy and right to respect of a celebrity? 2) Should a celebrity, if victim of internet trolling, sit silent or take a stance and revert to the internet troll in a fitting manner! 3) Is it fair to make the assessments that to achieve women’s empowerments in the real world, we first need to change the way women are being treated on social media platforms, with derogatory and insensitive sexist comments being passed to some of them! 4) Is a 2 year jail terms adequate enough to teach “cyber bullies” a lesson or should a new law be passed in India against internet trolls, if yes, what can be the new law?
Aditya Jha Author

Aditya Jha is 20 years old and has had a passion for writing since a young age. He has had the great honor of being published in the book "blank space", which featured his fictional short story "a writer's tale". He has also published 2 ebooks - Best.Generation.Ever. and An Iron Lady (Autobiography on his grandmother's life). He has great passion for speaking and is a Delhi University Debator - having won various laurels for his speaking.

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