In the time that I have been writing for this paper I have gotten mostly pleasant responses, except on two occasions. When I wrote about LGBTQ+ issues and last week’s column on scamsters in the fashion industry, it resulted in me receiving threatening messages.
When I reached out to people on social media, I found out that many women had received threatening messages over making jokes or negative film reviews of popular heroes’ films, to rape and death threats over their wardrobe choices. Has the Internet turned into a haven for such trollers; are they being protected by the anonymity that social media can offer?
A city-based freelance journalist was trolled for weeks about making a joke that irked Ajith’s fans. I write this at the risk of them targeting me but this must be addressed. One joke online resulted in weeks of trollers harassing and threatening her. Several celebrities and well-wishers advised her to take the tweet down and she refused to back down. “My editor was very understanding and he stood by me. I was character assassinated and got rape and death threats, and when that didn’t faze me, they went to the extent of caste-shaming. This is a form of violence against women that is recurring in nature. People call you and offer their support but everyone is too scared to tweet in support out of fear that they will be next,” she said.
Isn’t it about time Twitter revised its policies on online trolls? Any such threats should warrant them sharing the information with the cyber-crime department. When a person threatens to rape or murder someone over their views, they should lose their right to cyber anonymity, I feel. Another journalist got trolled just for doing her job, which is in part to review films. She got caught in the crossfire between Ajith and Vijay fan clubs after a critical and honest film review. “Social media etiquette is non-existent in our country so we need stricter cyber-crime laws. Women are more vulnerable online and this, I think, makes men feel emboldened to bully and harass us,” she expressed.
In the case of Anaina Kandrikar, who dabbled in modeling for a while, she got hate messages from the religious ‘moral groups’ online. She was told to be a “proper Muslim” and to cover up or that she will go to hell for the way she dresses. I’m no expert, but where in any religious book, does it say harassing and threatening a woman is okay? Why is online harassment protected under the Freedom of Speech Act and not people having an opinion?
Sameea Bangera, a popular model, has gotten several rape threats in recent times. I’m not sure what is worse but one of them messaged her asking her permission to rape her! Understandably, she is disgusted by this and promptly blocks these profiles. “How can something so violent and reviling be spoken about so casually?” she questions. Unfortunately, the world and the Internet have become hostile. However, nobody has the right to silence someone by threatening or bullying them online or in real life. I will continue to write about what I feel is right so threatening me will not silence me or any of the brave women who have spoken up here and otherwise!