KOCHI: Social media today is strife with hate speeches and abuses, mostly targeting individuals personally, rather than the issue in vogue. As a result, freedom of speech and expression, so integral to the idea of India as a democracy and guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution, is under threat. Recently, writer Sara Joseph became a victim of abuse through social media and, as a result, she decided not to write on her Facebook wall thereafter.
“I have always fought against the political stand taken by the fascist groups in society,” she told Express.
“This is not the first time I have encountered offensive comments from people, for posting opinions on my Facebook wall. But this time, with the Sabarimala issue heating up, verbal attacks on social media are high,” said Sara.
As a result of these verbal abuses and threats, many who were active in social media are becoming inactive, she added. Under fire from such arm-chair experts operating from the obscure cloisters of the Internet, voicing an opinion on social media is fraught with danger. “Social media is a political weapon and therefore everyone has the freedom to express their opinions and thoughts. Anyone who has language and social commitment cannot watch things happening around with folded hands,” said writer S Saradhakutty.
My block list is more than the list of friends. Mere verbal sexual assaults on women are a weapon used by the patriarchal society to silence her,” she added. Earlier, former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Shehla Rashid had deactivated her Twitter account in November following ‘toxicity and negativity’.
The striking down of Section 66 A of the IT Act in 2015, which provides power to arrest a person for posting allegedly ‘offensive’ content on websites, is a major blow when it comes to addressing social issues emerging in the state. “Basically, taking advantage of this particular section by the state officials have forced the Supreme Court (SC) to strike it down. Otherwise, it would have helped today especially in a state like Kerala,” said Advocate Rashmitha Chandran.
Recently Rashmitha was referred to as a ‘cultural prostitute’ for her views on supporting the SC verdict regarding the women’s entry in Sabarimala temple in a debate. “The SC verdict has made the IT law inactive. Even complaints filed at the jurisdictional police station takes time in delivering the result. The magistrate has to issue the order to Facebook to release the content and details of the user for taking action against them,” said Rashmitha.
Meanwhile, Francis Perera, a retired cyber cell officer, said the state police can charge defamation cases against those abusing an individual. “Many are ignorant about the cyber laws and Kerala Police Acts. There are provisions in the Act where cases can be taken against such verbal abuse through Facebook,” he said.