The never-ending barrage of trolls on twitter has been present since the platform set up. But now, the online trolling has turned into blatant online bullying.
A criminal case was filed against former JNU student Shehla Rashid, for allegedly spreading fake news about the Indian Army and the government. It was filed by Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, he demanded an immediate arrest of Rashid.
Rashid on her Twitter account claimed that the Indian Armed Forces “were entering houses at night, picking up boys, ransacking houses and deliberately spilling rations on the floor”. She also added that in Shopian, four men were called into the Army camp and were “interrogated and tortured”.
“A mic was kept close to them so that the entire area could hear them scream, and be terrorized. This created an environment of fear in the entire area,” she tweeted. She later also cited a news agency called AFP to show that almost 4,000 people have been arrested in the Valley and most of them have been flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity.
The Indian Army stated on Sunday to ridicule her claims and termed her allegations as baseless. It said that the claims made by Rashid are far from the reality in Kashmir.
CNN News18 then ran a poll on their YouTube Page asking their following whether or not they stood for the arrest of Rashid and then deleted the same when questioned. Journalism in India is now slowly propagating misinformation with no ramifications, and those critical of the government are out to be arrested for an unverified tweet.
Seeing CNN run this poll made it clear that trolling, journalism and public opinions have escalated from valid criticism to flagrant bullying.
Why Is Online Bullying Such A Big Problem?
Twitter has been a platform to voice your opinions and share your idea, like most other social media platforms. But the important factor to remember is that twitter is more political than any other social media platform.
Politicians, leaders, activists and the general public with strong opinions constitute the user base. Keeping that in mind, it's easy to see how the twitter drama and trolling is excessive and sometimes uncalled for.
Internet trolls have been defined by Urban Dictionary as "A person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the internet over extremely trivial issues. Such arguments can happen on blogs, Facebook, Myspace and a host of others."
The definition stands true because of late, the trolling has gone out of hand. Trolls have now started taking personal digs at others, imposing threats and being absolutely rude.
Apart from Shehla Rashid's case, recently Anurag Kashyap, director of Sacred Games, left twitter because he received death threats target at him and his family.
Trolling can be unethical, immoral and very unfair. Nobody deserves to be threatened with violence, death threats simply because they choose to express their opinions.
However, trolling is something which is also inevitable in this day and age, it is bound to happen if you share and express your opinions on public platforms, which will be acceptable to some, and not to others. But how far can it go?
What Are The Boundaries For Trolling?
Like everything else, trolling should also have some boundaries, so where do we draw the line?
Here's where we reach a point of conflict - how do we protect users’ right to free speech while also protecting users from the toxic behavior of other users?
As we have seen with other platforms, freedom of expression is a fundamental issue with online platforms. Facebook and Instagram have faced similar issues in the past, while Facebook made it clear that expression is not their concern, Instagram promised to make their platform more user-friendly and act on the issue.
While the question may be puzzling, it has a clear answer. The freedom of expression in India in itself has some restrictions, and so do other countries. While some restrictions vary, most of them are similar.
Death threats, the intention of violence, defamation, immorality, and indecency are some grounds that aren't protected by free speech. So, it should be easy to moderate user bases on these grounds.
Trolling on the basis of race, religion, and gender are also seen as criminal violations.
So, Why Do Trolls Go So Hard On Other Users?
Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba examined the psyche of trolls in 2014, the study appeared in the journal - Personality and Individual Disorders.
After speaking to more than 1,200 people they concluded that trolls possess a toxic stew of personality defects known as the Dark Triad.
- They are narcissistic. They “are manipulative and easily angered, especially when they don’t receive the attention they consider their birthright.” (Psychology Today)
- Machiavellianism is another characteristic. They are “focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals” (Harley Therapy)
- And, they are psychopaths. " those with psychopathy typically demonstrate impulsive behavior, a self-centered perspective, chronic violations of legal or social rules, and a lack of empathy and guilt” (Good Therapy).
- The Canadian researchers added a fourth behavioral issue; trolls are sadistic. This means they enjoy inflicting pain, humiliation, and suffering on others.
The anonymity, popularity and social presence the social platforms offer are also some of the reasons why trolls engage in this behavior. Controlling a behavior that arises from psychological characteristics can be difficult and tiring.
What We Think
Online bullying and trolling is a very real and concerning issue because the users that have to deal with it are real humans who go through the pain of maintaining their own self-worth and identity.
We may excuse the trolls who simply make memes and jokes about something, but when trolls get out of hand and impose death threats and personal attacks, we cannot turn a blind eye to their inappropriate behavior.
And while protecting the right to free speech is important, we have to learn to draw the line and call out these trolls who have put a new face to online bullying.