Social media trolling is a menace that demands our attention. The faceless trolls who usually use fake IDs and shady looking elusive accounts and handles, attack anyone and everyone who catches their fancy. The “art” of trolling goes beyond your political stand, religion, sexual preference, gender, ethnicity or physical appearance. But where does trolling actually end, and abuse and threatening begins?

A dark, bold and distinct line separates trolling and threatening someone, and no one can claim otherwise

Trolling is casual, but threatening is a criminal offence.

Miscreants on social media think too highly of themselves. However, they fail to understand what exactly trolling means. Trolling means a war of words and wit. You do not go around insulting your opponents or threatening them of harm. It simply means that you counter their views and opinions and provide counter-arguments, in a way which makes them feel stupid. Sounds motivating and productive? Nope. The basic essence of trolling, is to demoralise a person for holding up his views or taking a stand on an issue. Which is morally incorrect. But everyone has a different take on the morality of trolling. Many argue, that trolling is harmless, as it does not cause any injury to the victim.

 When you have to use the word victim, how can you say that trolling does not cause any harm?

The majority of so-called harmless trolling is actually disguised bullying, which is directed to a person merely because he or she has a different stand on an issue than trolls have.  Yet, it is easier to ignore trolls, with some strength and indifference, a person can still live a healthy virtual life.

But you cannot ignore threats. In fact, you should not ignore threats. Any person who thinks he can threaten of acid attacks, rape, murder, harm to a child, or any sort of injury under the guise of trolling needs to be called out publicly.

It is a grave criminal offence, which can put the perpetrator behind the bars.

Offenders know they can get away with it

Virtual threatening is a wide-spread offence all around the world. Offenders are usually of two types. Those who just want to spread hatred and fear the antisocial trolls, and those who feel their views, community, etc. are under a great threat – the insecure trolls.

Antisocial trolls just want to burn the world, they usually harass celebrities and public figures without any agenda. They just like to disrupt someone’s peace of mind because they can get away with it.

The insecure trolls are the ones who think they have a valid cause for their action. Their targets are not just public figures like authors, journalists etc, but anyone whose opinion is different from theirs. They take their “mission” to protect their ideologies very seriously. Hence they think that their threats are justified.

All these faceless virtual offenders have one thing in common. They know they can get away with threatening a person.

Many anti-social elements use the mask of anonymity on social media, to spread hatred and terror. And that is the scariest part of all. How long, before they get the similar confidence in carrying out their threats?

Women are the easiest and preferred targets

If you are a liberal woman, who tends to speak her mind and does not shy away from taking a side in the perpetual battlefield that is social media, then congratulations, you are the favourite target of the trolls.

Ask Why? Because there is so much variety at hand, in ways you can threaten women. Acid attacks, rape threats, harm to the family, facial disfigurement, stalking and so on…

I am not saying that men do not get harassed. Many men, and representatives from the LGBT community get threatened on daily basis on the various social platforms.

But there is a sort of arrogance and patriarchal sense of superiority associated with harassment of women on social media. They are supposed to keep quiet, not because of their stand, but because of their gender.

An offence is an offence

The virtuality of the offence does not make it less contemptuous. A threat is a threat. It is not a small thing to threaten a woman or any person with acid attack or rape. We need stricter cyber laws. The police should arrest the perpetrators and shame them publicly. Social media platforms should deactivate their accounts permanently. Unless these virtual hounds feel the burn of the consequences of their actions, they will not realise the gravity of their offences.

It is disheartening that such threats have become so commonplace. In ignoring them, we are making social media a hostile place for everyone. It’s about time we put our foot down against such behaviour. Social media should not become a medium, where perpetrators can use anonymity to threaten and bully people.

Pic Courtesy: dnaindia.com

Also Read : We get targetted for being women, says Suhasini Haider on sexist trolling 

Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own. 

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