RASHMI OBEROI | 9 MAY, 2018
The New Age of Trolls!
The New Age of Trolls!
Online abuse has always been a problem ever since we were introduced to the Internet World but lately, trolling has become increasingly common and getting nastier by the minute. Every day somebody or the other is getting recklessly trolled for either their choice of clothes, food, religion, actions or opinions.
Trolling has crossed all lines and has become out-rightly abusive. They are rude and mean but more intensively offensive. Sexual abuses are hurled at women. Most of them also receive death, rape threats and worse.
Trolls have one agenda: to be downright nasty, be hurtful, hate with malice, abuse, threaten and then retreat behind the ‘cyberspace camouflage’ that shields their true identities most often than not – after all they are cowards as they would never have the guts to say/do the same face to face.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, the abuse seems to have escalated - despite the efforts of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to try to control it. It is expected to get worse over the next decade. Abusive trolling not only leads to depression and trauma, it has driven many to suicide as well. Trolls have also driven many users out of the cyberspace.
Yes, it is true that the internet can be a frightening place with hidden crevices and dark bridges for trolls to hide under. But who are the anonymous people that provoke and hound others online, sometimes with devastating consequences? They are just sick minds who have nothing better to do than hurt others. In reality, they are weaklings.
The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the laughs. What trolls do ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats. Trolls are turning social media and comment boards into racial epithets and misogyny.
Women, however, are subjected to the most ruthless kind of abuse online. Sexist remarks and threats of rape, death and acid attacks feature regularly. Intense character assassination is also carried out and women have had their photos being circulated online with captions that question their integrity.
It is disturbing to say the least. Trolls most often cannot accept a woman with an opinion. Most women become accustomed to the abuse and more often than not, try and ignore it unless it gets out-of-hand. Intolerance to views from women, irrespective of ideology breeds on both sides of the political spectrum. Women are molested virtually on a daily basis for views that do not find favour in the prevalent idea of the normal, the acceptable!
One of the biggest consequences of these targeted attacks is that it makes people self-censor and this is what the trolls hope for. India is known to worship its actors, politicians and cricketers. Fans and followers go to feverish heights to ‘prove’ their devotion. Writing negatively against their idols brings forth a volley of abuses. Trolls are relentless in their hatred. And if and when a controversy breaks, trolls go to any lengths. They pick up old tweets or statements that were said in an entirely different context, just to prove a point.
But it takes a certain kind of person to be a troll as they display narcissistic tendencies and derive pleasure by causing pain to others. Their sole aim is to create unrest which makes them feel entitled and important. The most effective way to do that is to put out a negative response to something as that garners a dozen more negative responses. With the absence of a proper law, they are fearless.
While many believe the anonymity that internet provides makes it a great place to spew venom others feel that it is a skewed perception. The perception of anonymity online is one of the main reasons people have far less inhibition on the internet. This leads to comments and commentary online without concern of reprisal. Others take to the medium as a means to gain recognition, even if under alternative identity, and perceived power. Most often, they are completely unaware of the consequences that their actions have.
Thankfully now, people have woken up and take matters to the police and also resort to legal action. This ensures that some of those who spearheaded the abuse are taken to task, even though many such instances go unreported. This gives those who troll the confidence to continue spreading hate without the slightest fear of punishment. Police officials had earlier mentioned that cyber cells in most states were not fully equipped to deal with the challenges posed by internet trolling and cyber abuse.
Experts have lately worked hard to create and put in place laws that can be used against online trolls. They believed that it was imperative more than ever to review the existing cyber laws to take into account recent trends of hate speech, especially for the online space. Not all laws mention the term ‘internet’ explicitly, except provisions under IT Act, 2008, but nevertheless it can be interpreted in cases where a person is subjected to harassment on social media platforms or on email.
Unless there are strictures in place and enforced with decisive laws, trolls will continue to have a field day.