ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Antisocial Media

The new democratic space is being overrun by a viciousness which threatens its very nature.

Social media, if anything, is the largest amplifier on earth. It can take the softest of whispers and magnify its acoustics to reverberate all over the world. Not yet a teenager, social media is now punching well above its weight as one of the most important influences in the world. Unlike traditional media, where there are known gatekeepers of information and its flows, there is no such structure in social media. It is impossible to predict which voice, when, how, where and by whom will be amplified, becoming powerful in ways which bewilder everyone.

What has not been acknowledged enough, beyond individual cases, is how social media is amplifying regressive and oppressive voices and making it easy to get away with violence. Prejudice and hate are becoming ever more pervasive on social media. False pictures and news are circulated to whip up violence in the real world, as we have seen in India many times in the past few years. People who express dissenting views are often the target of unimaginably vile abuse and threats. For those who have not seen this with their own eyes, it may appear surreal, but graphic threats of rape, physical attacks on the person and her/his family, the most filthy abuse, circulation of morphed pictures of the person under attack, etc, are all too common. When hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, participate in such attacks, the consequences go beyond merely attacking freedom of expression. It can damage the person so attacked, have a chilling effect on participation by others and can be a real threat to life and liberty too.

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