Need to call out abusive trolls on social media

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported 2,04,056 cases of posts concerning child sexual abuse in 2022, up from 1,63,633 in 2021, and 17,390 in 2020.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

Abuses and threats from Indian fans hurled at Australia and India cricketers flooded social media platforms after the former beat the latter in the World Cup 2023 finals in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Death and rape threats to Australia’s star batsman at the final, Travis Head, and his family members, abusive questions asked of Aussie all-rounder Glenn Maxwell’s Indian-origin wife Vini Raman over not supporting her country of origin during the match, and vile language at India pacer Mohammed Siraj were among the cascades of insult that washed over social media after the final.

This flags the practice of taking to social media to target celebrities, sportsmen, politicians and other prominent personalities whenever things go the other way. The trolls—who mostly remain anonymous behind assumed names or ‘titles’—deem it their right to make their foul expressions heard, attracting other like-minded elements as they scroll on, spewing hatred. Psychologists explain this as an outcome of the feeling of acute powerlessness, but there is something more to it. Social media platforms provide these elements a safe haven for spewing venom to hurt their targets; when accused of inaction, they shoot from the shoulder of the Constitution-guaranteed freedom of expression. In oblivion remains the adage, “The freedom to swing your arm stops where your neighbour’s nose begins.”

The manner in which social media is used by similar elements garbed in anonymity can get even more gruesome and disgusting. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported 2,04,056 cases of posts concerning child sexual abuse in 2022, up from 1,63,633 in 2021, and 17,390 in 2020. This has got the NHRC worried about the ill effects of such material on human rights. Unfortunately, no such record is maintained on social media abuses targeting individuals or groups concerning sporting losses, communal affiliations, or linguistic and casteist links. Persistent and targeted social media abuse can have long-lasting mental health effects on victims even when no direct threat is made. It can play havoc on the mind of the victim, who suddenly has to deal with a perceived threat and its possible consequences from ‘invisible’ elements. Such abuse needs to be called out repeatedly so that the perpetrators can be tracked and dealt with. Technology, a conscientious citizenry and the related government agencies can effectively put down this menace.

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