The bias that social media platforms such as Facebook display reflects their own world-view as much as it does the regimes they support.
A few gave the appearance of being truly psychopathic individuals. The mass of others were ragged and illiterate peasants easily roused to hatred of the Tutsi. Perhaps the most sinister people I met were the educated political elite, men and women of charm and sophistication who spoke flawless French and who could engage in long philosophical debates about the nature of war and democracy. But they shared one thing in common with the soldiers and the peasants: they were drowning in the blood of their fellow countrymen.
Fergal Kane, a journalist with the BBC, wrote these chilling lines in his book, Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey, winner of the Orwell prize in 1995. The organised and planned killing in Rwanda, one of the darkest episodes of the 20th century, resulted in the death of eight lakh Tutsi.
It is a strange coincidence that a year and a half before these unfortunate developments, the biggest democracy in the world went through its own cataclysmic moment, when Hindutva supremacist forces demolished a 500-year-old mosque after a long and bloody campaign. Even after the demolition large-scale communal riots broke out all over India, in which thousands died and whose scars are still difficult to heal.
There is at least one thing in common between what Rwanda went through and what India witnessed in 1992: both tragedies demonstrated how the media can prepare and provoke ordinary people into unleashing untold miseries on their neighbours. Continue reading Corporate Social Media in India: Sell Hate, Enjoy Profit
This is a guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA
Megan Garber’s article ‘#PrayForParis: When Empathy Becomes a Meme’, published in The Atlantic (November 16, 2015) has claimed that Paris hashtags and French flag filters on Facebook make for an “act of mass compassion” – a “compassion that has been converted, via the Internet’s alchemy, into political messaging”.
I have absolutely no problems with flag filters on Facebook. Or for that matter, profile-picture revolutions that happen all too often. I’m not, in the least bit indignant about such a competitive exhibitionism of feeling – indexed through a currency of memes and emoticons. In an age of such mass-production of violence (‘terroristic’ or ‘humanitarian’), it is no surprise that the event of mourning must become a symptom of the incompatibility between ‘act’ and ‘response’.
A funereal Facebook must therefore bleed profile pictures, because that seems the only charter of our most intimate emotions. We naturally do not care if Facebook is using the Paris tragedy as a marketing platform, as long as it helps us reclaim a deeply ‘personal’ angst in the face of more-than-a-hundred ‘spectacular’ deaths.
Continue reading Of Flags and Fetishes – The Paris Attacks and A Misplaced Politics of Solidarity: Debaditya Bhattacharya
Nameless Coalition, a group of NGOs, has written an open letter to Facebook demanding justice for individuals who have been affected by it’s ‘authentic identity’ policy. Please read it at the Electronics Frontier Foundation Action Centre.Those interested in supporting this effort are requested to sign the petition.
In Kerala, the abuse of women online became a hotly-discussed issue over the heavy online abuse suffered by Preetha G P, which provoked a wider debate on FB policy and strong responses in support of Preetha from other women politically active on FB. The campaign For A Better FB was initiated by them.
I add below reflections by Anila Balakrishnan expressed on FB, on her support for the campaign. They have been translated from the Malayalam and posted here with her permission:
Facebook has never given me the feeling that it is a space where I can behave and speak out my views freely. On the contrary, it has always reminded me that I am a woman and must therefore tread carefully. That is the reason why I decided to reduce myself into someone who had nothing to say in public, someone who spoke only in the presence of friends. I just decided that I will not sacrifice my peace for the misogyny and hate-speech of the hordes who know nothing of me or my politics; I was not willing to spend time and energy on confronting them. When my posts became public because of sheer necessity or even by mistake, these hordes reminded me quickly that they should be confined to friends alone. Those were not ideological confrontations; they were vicious attacks the female gender itself. And so I have not felt brave enough to say anything that could invite public comment on FB. Women who have showed the courage to say such things have not been spared by the hordes, for sure.
But this was never my choice. I do believe that opinions ought to be public; that one must engage with each and every person in the crowd. But I am not willing to take on myself from the social media personal wounds that go beyond differences and diversity in views . So the decision to reduce myself is not my choice – it was imposed on me. I have not heard of any man who makes his views public being abused because of his body. I do not know of any man who has to maintain constant vigilance against such attacks. That’s how Facebook remains as patriarchal as any other social media, as society itself. And that’s precisely why I am part of this campaign for a better FB.
Guest post by Joyojeet Pal
Political Social Media had a minor event this week. The world’s two most followed elected leaders on social media, shared the media centerstage. Barack Obama, with 45 million fans on Facebook and 54 million followers on Twitter, and his Indian counterpart Modi, with 27 million on Facebook and another 9.8 million on Twitter, together command the arguably most powerful political brands on social media. In a rare moment of realpolitik bromance, Narendra Modi sent Barack Obama a smiley for quoting Shah Rukh Khan in the Lok Sabha. A day later, Narendra Modi became the first Indian politician to use Twitter’s new video feature in a carefully cut 30-second monologue.
Modi campaign’s exceptional presence on social media is not news. He is India’s most “liked” person on Facebook. While he still trails actors Amitabh Bachchan the Khan troika and the Dalai Lama from among India’s resident Tweeters, his average of adding 20,000 followers daily for much of the last year should put him safely past his competition by the end of the year.
Continue reading @NarendraModi, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the brand: Joyojeet Pal
आखिर खुर्शीद अनवर ने ज़िंदगी से बाहर छलांग लगा ली.यह असमय निधन नहीं था. यह कोई बहादुरी नहीं थी. और न बुजदिली. क्या यह एक फैसला था या फैसले का अभाव? अखबार इसे बलात्कार के आरोपी एक एन.जी.ओ. प्रमुख की आत्महत्या कह रहे हैं. क्या उन्होंने आत्महत्या इसलिए कर ली कि उनपर लगे आरोप सही थे और उनके पास कोई बचाव नहीं था? या इसलिए कि ये आरोप बिलकुल गलत थे और वे इनके निरंतर सार्वजनिक प्रचार से बेहद अपमानित महसूस कर रहे थे? Continue reading खुर्शीद अनवर की आत्महत्या और कुछ सवाल
Guest post by KAVITA KRISHNAN:
The footsteps of fascism can be heard – this time in the hallowed hallways of the national capital’s courts. A woman who filed an FIR against a man physically threatening her for her anti-Modi Facebook posts, found to her dismay that the Metropolitan Magistrate in the Tis Hazari courts let off the man accused of threatening her safety, while ordering an FIR against her instead! The media’s coverage of this outrageous incident has been, till now, biased and factually misleading.
Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, a journalist and a Ph.D. Fellow in JNU, received several threats by emails from one Pankaj Kumar Dwivedi, which warned her of ‘consequences’ and even demanded she meet the man so that he could ‘cleanse’ her of her ‘filth.’ Continue reading Delhi Magistrate orders FIR against woman for anti-Modi posts: Kavita Krishnan
Guest post by YOUSUF SAEED
I am utterly shocked and pained to read about the violent rally that many Muslims took out at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on 11 August 2012 in protest against the recent communal carnage in Assam and Burma. More than the accidental death of two men and 50 injured in yesterday’s protest, what alarmed me was the public anger targeted on the media for “not reporting about the violence against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar”. Several vans of TV channels and their equipment were smashed or burnt besides a number of police vehicles destroyed. Of course, the authorities are still probing as to who really began the violence in an otherwise peaceful rally (and we are open to the results of such a probe). But my worst fear came true with this assertion of one of the protesters in a newspaper report: “Why is the media not covering Burma and Assam? We learnt about the incidents from videos posted on the Internet.” This seems to be a very disturbing statement on various accounts. Of course, the media can sometimes be biased, and the Muslims do feel victimised by it all the time. But are the random videos and images posted on the Internet any less biased or misleading? Continue reading How to start a riot out of Facebook: Yousuf Saeed