Skip to main content

Political use of social media, where 'likes' and 'reach' decide authenticity of an item

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

Social media can surely act as a liberating factor for all those who haven’t been able to avail the opportunity by caste supremacists in India in the name of merit. But it is also a fact that the same brahmanical elite control social media India. A recent report, which highlights how Facebook has been politically compromised in India, explosive in its own way, however, says nothing new. It was known to many of us from the very beginning.
If Facebook is under attack for backing a particular kind of hate politics, as a frequent user of Twitter, I have found how it uses 'filers' everywhere. These filters are used very cleverly in such a way that that you elicit most likes, reaching the largest audience: All of it is decided allegedly using a particular of 'technology'.
Facebook gives you space and at the same time controls our access and reach, but I have found Twitter more notorious on this. It has allowed paid army of trolls to abuse, intimidate and resort to character assassination of those who differ with the powers-that-be. Twitter actually 'decides' what should be the 'prime time' TV discussions in the evening. Political parties and business groups use their 'troll armies' to 'trend' an issue so that it gets into 'news' channels. 
The problem in today's world is that the 'reach' and the 'likes' decide whether an item is 'authentic' or ‘worthwhile’. The fight today is not to about 'correctness' or 'authenticity' or ‘credibility’ of particular news but who is able to get away with bigger likes and shares. It is well now how it is possible to elicit more likes and shares without even reading posts.
With the advent of social media, many have got lucrative jobs meant to keep political masters happy. False narratives are sought to be built up and pushed especially through WhatsApp. Many youngsters and even veterans use these narratives as 'knowledge'. Reading habit has been on decline for quite some time now. But thanks to social media, things have gone worse. WhatsApp forwards decide whether a person is knowledgeable.
If this is true with regard to large sections of people, they are also sought be influenced by trolls, who just need is their political master’s tweet to go ahead with his or her propaganda. There is no discussion on the merit of a tweet. What is instead discussed is, how many have retweeted or endorsed or liked particular tweets. And it isn’t just trolls. TV channels and online portals use tweets for to create public opinion.
Often I have been advised to write smaller pieces or one-liners in order to get 'large' number of likes or comments. But I have wondered: Can you really express yourself in a one-liner, and will that ever raise a serious discussion? It’s fine with those playing games around these one line ‘jumlas’. But if you wish to engage in fruitful discussions, discourses, and not ‘jumlas’, are needed.
I have found meaningful and serious people become victims of social media ‘jumlas’. The aim of is not to hold constructive discussion, which one may want to trigger, but to bombard you with disinformation in order to use these platforms as an easier tool to spread political propaganda. A propagandist government wouldn’t want people to learn or gain knowledge through these platforms.
What is happening in India is not to repair the 'imperfect' democracy, but to empower the already powerful, authoritarian forces
No doubt, social media could have been a liberating force. But I realized, following the Arab Spring, that the solution that it provides is worse than the problem. A country’s fight against 'authoritarianism' is sought to be turned into anarchy and chaos. India has been a working democracy. None can say that we have been perfect, but what is happening in India is not to repair the 'imperfect' democracy, but to empower the already powerful, authoritarian forces. 
Indeed, social media has become a tool to control with political propaganda. Political dissent and diverse views are sought to be targeted and filtered. While one gets the feeling of being democratic and express voices, the fact is, it’s cleverly reduced to nothingness. 
Moreover, those abusing or threatening someone -- especially one opposing a ruling political viewpoint -- on social media are 'protected' as 'freedom of expression'. This is true not just about social media but also about the mainstream media, which have many a 'legend' that openly threaten and intimidate political opponents.
Freedom of expression is not meant for all but those who can abuse the opponent. Can you imagine any such freedom under international laws, which our 'media' claims to use to vilify the opposition and dissenting voices? In the United States, Twitter censored President Donald Trump. Social media in Europe and America is careful and wouldn’t dare allow hatred. There they can’t imagine failing to doing business with 'ease' if they target the ruling party.
Social media in our societies have important role to play and we can use them in a much better way, which can be constructive, but it would be too much to expecting from it to work for our 'welfare' while ignoring its own business interests. There is a need to build communities and alliances, share ideas and thoughts, and even when though the reach of such an exercise will be limited.
---
*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).