Is it time to take trolling seriously?

Women are viciously attacked and threatened on social media for merely voicing their opinions, sometimes even for non-provocative remarks

Published: 10th March 2017 11:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th March 2017 06:11 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Even as it has established itself as a source where news is first shared, Twitter has been infamous for its trolls and the vicious personal insults that people come up with to bring others down. The biggest target of internet trolls have been celebrities. Every public figure – be it a politician, movie star or a sportsperson – has been targetted by trolls on the micro-blogging site. Everybody has a different way of responding to them. Some ignore them, some respond with witty one-liners and some post lengthy tweets explaining their position. But singer Chinmayi has come up with a brave campaign:  #RapeThreatsNotOk.

‘You deserve to be raped’, ‘take back your words or there will be consequences’, ‘B***hes like you must be shown their place’ – these are all common phrases that are used by anonymous trolls on Twitter. While we may normally brush it aside as harmless trolling, it doesn’t take away the fact that it’s not okay to threaten a woman.
Chinmayi has herself been a victim of such abuse on social media and had filed a complaint against the perpetrators, which eventually led to the arrest of three men. “When I tried to report these threats ,Twitter simply ignored my fears. They told me that they would not take any action unless there was a police case. Most women give up and quit Twitter. I decided to file a police complaint,” Chinmayi stated in her petition.
The popular singer acknowledged that while she may have the resources to file a police complaint and follow through, it’s not easy for everybody to do so.
“I am a celebrity and I have time, support and resources to fight. But what about the millions of ordinary women who use Twitter and face rape threats everyday? It is the responsibility of Twitter to ensure that their platform is not used for promoting violence against women,” Chinmayi lashed out.
“That’s why I started this petition asking Twitter to send a strong message against online abuse by doing a large scale shutdown of accounts which tweet rape threats against women,” she added.
The petition has gathered momentum with over 55,000 signatures in less than a week. Back home in Hyderabad too, women share that they are subjected to indecent and vicious abuse for stating their opinion on social media.

“Women are the biggest targets because men feel that we don’t have the right to have an opinion. They try to take us down by abusing us. I myself have been trolled multiple occasions. Whenever I try do defend women, I’m called a Feminazi,” shared city-based activist Varsha Bhargavi, who started the #IWillGoOut campaign in the city.
Varsha points out that sometimes women are trolled even for making non-provocative statements. “For example, when Salman Khan had used that disgusting rape analogy, I was trolled viciously for criticising him. People sent me personal messages, ‘stating that I don’t know men’, or ‘When was the last time I had sex’, etc,” Varsha explained.
And while the activist is old enough to handle the trolls that come her way, she worries that it could adversely impact some of the younger women.
“A comment can be deleted or edited but the psychological impact it will have on the girl is irreversible,” Varsha added.

While there are laws in place – for both online and offline harrassment – people don’t often take the trouble to go through the process of registering a complaint.
“Once a man threatened on social media to strip me naked in full public and beat me up because he disagreed with my opinion. I was hurt and obviously furious. I reported him to Twitter but nothing happened. My friends told me to go to the Police. But I decided to ignore it in the end. I didn’t feel the need to waste so much time and money on such a worthless comment,” expresses Aparna (names changed), a city-based fashion designer.
So while we continue to express ourselves on just about everything under the sun on social media, it’s time to drive the point home that threats and personal remarks must not be taken with a pinch of salt.


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