Outrage or Ignore? The Moral Dilemma of Dealing with Bigots and Misogynists on Social Media

Do outrage or not to outrage | Image credit: Reuters

Do outrage or not to outrage | Image credit: Reuters

Maybe it makes sense to not provide haters with the platforms they crave by dignifying their stupidity with a response. But oops, looks like we just did that.

Rakhi Bose
  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 5, 2020, 9:15 PM IST
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Yet another day, yet another sexist creep on social media, begging for attention using misogyny or bigotry.

Trawling social media, for work or leisure, has become nothing short of walking blindfolded on a minefield. Every tweet skipped is oozing with sexism, every tag ignored loaded with communal hate. How is one to handle these people who take no time to make their hate viral (because let's face it, the internet is filled with humanity's lowest)?

Yesterday, it was "The Placard Guy", today it's "Elvish".

To put things in context, Elvish Yadav is yet another no-getter who has been spreading virulent ideas against feminism by "roasting" women performers whom he does not consider feminist enough.

The man has also been posting abusive "anti-liberal" content which basically boils down to bigotry and communal hate-posting. Within a day, he has called for "faasi" (hanging) for Jamia student Safoora Zargar who has been denied bail a third time despite being pregnant, to openly hurling abuses at women, Elvish Yadav seems to have got what he wanted - to trend on Twitter.

Then there came another one on Instagram. The man who calls himself 'Yogi Oabs' has this as his bio: "I teach women how to behave, and inspire men to be manly."

He basically takes misogynistic quotes from various places, designs them and posts them. Yes, that's how he teaches women how to 'to behave'. Among these quotes, some are his. Sample this- "The benefits of rejecting motherhood is the biggest lie feminists brainwashed an entire generation with" or "Feminine women like being possessed by a strong man."

Now while we may roll our eyes at these messages, turns out, soon after someone shared his profile on social media, overnight, he gained over a thousand followers.

So what to do when one encounters such a troll?

Even as social media platforms, as well as security experts, grapple with the best ways to maintain freedom of speech, privacy, user protection and security, nothing really helps when one encounters a vicious new troll impressing other low-lives with exaggerated displays of vitriolic behaviour.

Experts often suggest not to "feed the trolls". The idea was explored by author James Desborough in his book called "Inside Gamergate: A Social History of the Gamer Revolt" in which he described trolls as insatiable digital entities that survive on infamy and abuse. Debouroughs also goes on to say that not feeding such trolls may cause them to retire from their pursuits and find new targets.

It's a win-win for everyone. The writer's conscience is soothed, having doled out a stern piece of her or his mind in language more refined than the oil in her kitchen. The media house publishing the rant is happy because controversy brings traffic. The social media platform is happy for the ads it shoved at you and data it stole from you while you were debating with bots. And the trolls are happy for getting a free platform and exposure to millions of people with the legitimacy of a news feature. They'll probably be adding that rant to their CV as proof of their efficiency.

But where does that leave the general Twitter user whose job it is to outrage? Does a degenerate of this level deserve to be countered? Is any publicity good publicity?

The fact is that what one is dealing here with is not just one troll but a systemic trolling that is slowly gaining currency. And it is set to get worse.

As per analysis conducted by Pew Research Centre in 2017, experts believe that uncivil and harassing online behaviour will be on the rise in the coming years. Now is the time to look closely at the debate between protecting anonymity and holding abusive trolls accountable.

It is not the role of average users to weed out trolls and takedown abusers who are often backed by a powerful shadow community ready to unleash armies of bots that can drown out ant form of sensible discourse with whataboutery and rape threats. It is the responsibility of the platforms to ensure no form of abuse is tolerated toward any community or person.

But until that happens, maybe it makes sense to not provide haters with the platforms they crave by dignifying their stupidity with a response. But oops, looks like we just did that!

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