YouTube brutals: What victims in Tamil Nadu have to say about cyberbullying

In the light of the recent arrest of 'Savukku' Shankar, the newindianexpress.com caught up with a few victims who have been at the receiving end of the YouTubers
Representative Image.
Representative Image.(Photo | Pexels)

Are online trolls and hate campaigns here to stay?

The havoc cyberbullies wreak on the lives of victims is beyond anyone's imagination. On the other hand, at stake is freedom of expression.

But then independent researcher Srinivas Kodali's pinned tweet comes to mind. It says, "Free speech is between you and the state, its not between you and me, you and me don't even have a social contract. Feel free to unfollow, mute me if you don't like my views."

There are the good, the bad and the ugly among the YouTubers. It is quite easier to differentiate the chaff from the grain.

Against the backdrop of the arrest of a popular YouTuber 'Savukku' Shankar by Coimbatore police on May 4, 2024 for alleged derogatory remarks against women police personnel, without going into the merits of the case, the newindianexpress.com caught up with a few victims of cyberbullying to listen to what they had to say...

Apsara Reddy, the spokesperson of the AIADMK, said that she suffered cyberbullying, simply because she is a transwoman, from a YouTuber.

“The humiliation and loss of dignity I endured were profound. The baseless accusations led to a significant loss of opportunities, as people tend to believe sensational YouTube headlines and fail to verify facts," said Apsara.

"Despite these challenges, I fought relentlessly in a court of law. The judge observed that YouTube and Facebook should be made a party to the defamation suit.

"However since the YouTuber had a vile intention I chose only to pursue him. I have also launched criminal proceedings against him for brutally attacking my right to dignity and opportunity. His devious designs are now a matter of court records where in his appeal too got dismissed with strong observations by the High Court," Apsara added.

Many YouTubers act on political orders, said Shalin Maria Lawrence, an author and a Dalit rights activist who had faced such political targeting. Most of these YouTubers are supporters of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, she said.

“I had walked out of an event after a disagreement with a communist party member. In the following days I was heavily targeted by a few youtube channels like U2brutus, Periyarist group. I believe these groups were funded by the DMK. They portrayed me as a BJP/RSS supporter. I am not a member of any right wing party nor have I met any members of such parties. This was a real case of defamation.” said Shalin.

Shalin is not alone in this case. Sonia Arunkumar is an influential journalist who felt the full brunt of such YouTube trolling. She is an ex-employee of reputed news agencies like News 7 Tamil and Jaya TV.

“Youtubers like U2brutus, Karikalan, Thamizha Thamizha Pandiyan have been after me for writing articles against the DMK," she said.

"As a journalist I have no affiliation to any political party and I write against them all. But these vloggers have made disgusting allegations against me. I own a natural salon. They have accused me of running an illicit massage parlor. Among these they have spread canards against me through their platform. This harassment has also affected my professional life,” Shalin said.

She went on to file a defamation case.

“There are a lot of troubles in filing a case. From giving basic details like the address of the accused which I didn't know. How will I know the address of somebody who is streaming on YouTube?," she added.

Speaking further on legal side of this problem, Advocate Manoj who is practicing at the Madras High Court and has dealt with multiple defamation cases said, “You cannot file a police complaint for defamation. You have to go to a lawyer and send a notice to the culprit and fight the case in court. All this proves to be costly and draining. The case might drag on for a couple of years since such cases cannot be decided in a jiffy.”

Manoj went on to add that the only way the menace could be controlled is by bringing YouTubers under a law. He said that some form of registration must be brought about for YouTubers so that a provision is there to penalize the troublemakers.

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