People facing online abuse must come out in streets and protest: Activists

JNU student leader Shehla Rashid said she has often faced abuse on social media platforms like Facebook which amounts to violation of democratic rights, online or offline.

Published: 29th August 2018 12:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2018 12:05 AM   |  A+A-

Gurmehar Kaur. | File Photo


NEW DELHI: Social media users and other netizens should move beyond the virtual space and hit the streets to protest against online abuse and bullying to assert their democratic rights in the digital space, activists said today.

In a panel discussion organised as part of an event by the Amnesty India here, JNU student leader Shehla Rashid and activist-author Gurmehar Kaur shared their views, while deliberating on confronting the threat posed by online violence against women.

"What we are seeing today is replication of 'violence' and abuse happening online in offline domain. This culture of violence is really worrying," Rashid said.

The JNU students leader said she has often faced abuse on social media platforms like Facebook which amounts to violation of democratic rights, online or offline.

"Online abuse, verbal or otherwise, injects doubts in the minds of readers, and makes the the person being abused less credible in their eyes. It essentially renders them as a second-class citizens. Today, we have to think twice before posting anything online, so that impinges on our freedom of expression," she said.

Bullying cannot be allowed in the garb of freedom of speech, Rashid said.

Kaur, who had also faced online abuse for her posts, said, social media users must speak up and "not stay silent" on such issues.

"Your silence will encourage the perpetrators to target more people. Be vocal, not just online but offline. Come out in the open, speak up and protest, when faced with abuse, and seek support of people who understand the issue," she said.

The young activist also equated the online abuse and bullying scenario with the notion of ragging, as was few decades ago.

"Remember, when we were in schools, and ragging was purveyed as something that was sort of normal, an ice-breaker, and to be taken ion good humour. Today, that same sort of normalisation is happening when it comes to lynching offline or trolling online. We don't get so alarmed by mob lynch news anymore, do we?" Kaur asked.

Rashid said, Facebook, Twitter users and other netizens must take to the streets to protest when faced with such abuses.

Responding to questions from the audience, the JNU leader also said that "female trolls" must also be called out.

"Yes, many women are among the trolls pervading the online space, and they must be called out too when they resort to such abusing or bullying," she said.


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