He was speaking at an event, Netizens For Democracy, organised to discuss social media’s pros and cons. The event was organised by Citizens of Justice and Peace (CJP), All India Professionals Congress and some other resident groups at Bandra West.
“Trolling is an organised technique of the ruling party. They have cells and there is an army of trolls who have multiple accounts. They get instructions, messages and then attack some of the favourite targets of BJP,” Tharoor said.
On fake news, Tharoor said, “It is very dangerous. There is a huge amount of disinformation. Some are deliberate and unfortunately, WhatsApp forwards are spreading lies. There are a lot of WhatsApp forwards saying that Feroz Gandhi was a Muslim, Nehru family was Khan, Unesco has voted Narendra Modi as the best Prime Minister in the world, etc. There are some people who believe these. We haven’t acquired a system to tell that this social media post is fake.”
He added, “Many mob lynching incidents took place across the country after WhatsApp forwards about child theft gangs. Now, government has proposed new draft regulations on media and it says that the government can order removal of any content that it finds offensive. This is very worrying and citizens should give their suggestions and objections against such clauses.”
Earlier, inaugurating the event, Justice (retd) Abhay Thipsay said: “There has been a systematic erosion of democracy in the last four years. Earlier also it used to happen, but things that were whispers then are out in the open now and being accepted as the norm.”
Eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, “The cost of spreading information has been so minimalised that the impact of corporate and capital can be overcome through social media.”
Former JNU student Umar Khalid, who was also part of a panel discussion on ‘Censorship and Trolls’, said that the hate spread on social media against him has led to a physical attack on him. Just like money and muscle has dominated politics, this has started to show itself in social media, he said. “Apart from social media, prime time TV channels are also fuelling hate against us,” he added.
On constant abuse and trolling on social media, peace activist Gurmehar Kaur said, “The daily abuse and trolling on social media has forced me to minimise its use or think twice before putting anything on social media.”
The CJP has launched an app called ‘Hate Hatao’ to fight the spread of hate on social media. It will pursue all hate related posts, video, threats and take up the matter with NHRC, Press Council of India and law enforcement agencies. “Our vision and mission is to create a committed band of peace volunteers on the ground to prevent hate related violences,” said Teesta Setalvad, CJP secretary.
‘Farmers’ demands not fulfilled’, MLA warns of another agitation
CPI(M) MLA J P Gavit, speaking at a panel discussion on the historic march by farmers in March 2018, at the Netizens for Democracy event on Saturday, alleged that none of the demands of the farmers have been fullfiled by the state government and warned of another residents’ movement. “The government had accepted our all demands after the march from Nashik to Mumbai. But unfortunately, nothing has been done. It has started process on some of our demands but not a single promised has been fulfilled. There have been three to four agitations by farmers but after every assurance, the situation has remained the same. We will start a movement or march again if the things don’t change. And this time, we will appeal to the netizens to support us,” he added. ENS