Friday, 8 July 2016

Social trolling menace?-Why the advocater of right to absolute freedom of speech/expression are silent?

Union minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi has decided to take actions against troll-abuse in social media particularly against women. She has requested the Union Home Ministry as well as I&B ministry to take possible steps to control the abusive trolling community. She also asked social networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms for their assistance in tackling this troll menace.

Maneka Gandhi became proactive following complaints by troll victims. A fake account in the name of Arvind Kejriwal is nowadays posting obscene content online. Another Chennai based IT professional has complained that her sister-in-law is posting abusive content against her. The minister also assumed it as worst form of violence against women.
Many are of the view that the repeal of section 66A has made the trolling community careless and they are misusing online platforms to abuse people in worst kind of trolls. Whether the section 66A was helpful in curbing the trolling menace or not, we will discuss this in later part of the article.

The Supreme Court repealed section 66A after free speech advocators complained against it. These advocators always claim that freedom is absolute. Now the same advocators are complaining against trolling in social media. If freedom of speech and expression is absolute, how can you demand action against trolling?

In any society (forget about democratic set up) nothing is absolutely free. A freedom always comes with a rider. You have freedom to speak/express but at the same time you must take care of the fact that your exercising of right to freedom must not abuse anybody, must not hurt anybody's sentiment, and must not be provocative and finally it must not be indecent. Creative imagination is always an art, which can be displayed without hurting anybody.

But then if people become cynic (with biased point of view) then their opinions always contradict each other. For example, the same freedom flag bearers advocate nude pictures of Hindu God or Goddess, films like PK as freedom of creative imagination but then they also demand action against cartoon on prophet or films like Vishwaroopam (Kamal Hassan starrer). 

There are many people who are very critical of Salman Khan's 'raped woman' analogy (Salman's view is no doubt indecent but not intentional I believe) but the same group of people clapped for the 'Balatkaar' speech in the film ‘Three Idiots’. In both cases rape is ridiculed, joked but contradicted opinion makes many people to suffer from hypocrisy. 

Now the question is, whether section 66A could be helpful in curbing the trolling menace. I don't think this section can be helpful in anyway except its misuse by vested interest groups as well as people in power (responsible for enforcing the law). That's why SC rightly scrapped this law. But then the Supreme Court never said that acts shouldn't be there to control such menace. The SC on numerous occasions said that right to freedom is not absolute. Section 66A had many lacunae for which instead of helping to curb the menace, it started haunting people for no reason.
Can there be any possible law/act/section, which would be able to control this troll menace? But let's first find out what should be considered abusive. In this modern Bollywood, Hollywood era, it's very difficult to define what exactly the abusive language is. For example, 'Fuck', 'asshole' like slang words have become part of English literature. You can find out such things in English movies and novels. An exact translation of such words in Indian vernacular languages would be considered as extreme vulgar. But then the film 'Udta Punjab' cleared by the Bombay High Court has full range of Hindi/Punjabi vulgar slangs. If those are not considered obscene, how you can draw a line?

In the process of trolling Barkha Dutta, a twitter user wrote that he had already purchased toilet paper because of delay in availability of Barkha's book. Now there is nothing vulgar in this post, yet it is one of the worst abusive tweets particularly against a woman?

There is also complaint that people with fake accounts indulge in such disgraceful trolls. But the fact is, all other genuine accounts as well as established persons like senior journalists, writers, politicians and socialists also indulge in indecent and abusive trolls!

Arvind Kejriwal referred Prime Minister as psychopath in one of his tweets. You can't book him because there is no law to tackle online insults. Even if you take action, Kejriwal will fight back complaining revenge politics. After HRD minister, Smriti Irani was transferred from HRD to textiles, many known and reputed people with genuine accounts trolled her with sexist comments. Thus why to blame only fake account holders?

It's not that such things cannot be controlled if not be eliminated. One thing is in our hands i.e. ignore it, don't react to it. This is Gandhian formula. Don't even block the abuser, just ignore. Time will come when the trolling will stop because there won't be any response despite provocations.

Second way could be introduction of "report abuse" tab on social networking sites like many newspaper websites provide. If the abuse tab is hit beyond threshold number (set as per assessment) then the account should be blocked by the social media administrator and an inquiry by the police could be started.

One may not be booked at the moment, but an inquiry can name and shame the trolling person and that would be enough for many to control their language in social media. For repeat offenders a 24-hour detention in police station would be sufficient because all such trolling people probably do not understand what police station is. They troll from comfort zones at their private places through smart devices considering themselves as absolute kings.

Finally, I would like to ask the flag bearers of right to absolute freedom to think once more over their arguments.

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