Online abuse and threats to women have become a norm in the social media world. The latest to raise voice against this menace is Congress Spokesperson Pankhuri Pathak who rapped Twitter for allowing people to get away with posting rape threats and deaths to women on the micro-blogging site.
Pathak tagged Twitter in her tweet that she used to respond to the rape threat written in Hindi. She said,
“So according to @TwitterIndia @TwitterSupport, a rape joke directed at an individual isn’t a violation of twitter rules? Isn’t @Twitter protecting potential rapists @jack @ishan_majmudar @maya_hari @manishm345 ??”
She further added through another tweet.
“Over the last few years @TwitterIndia has become an increasingly unsafe place for female users. Rape/death threats, sexually explicit language/ content are an everyday affair. A lot of such abusive content is in regional languages & @TwitterSupport fails to take note of it.”
Like Pankhuri there are many other women who repeatedly face rape threats at the hands of anonymous and known handles. Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena, Journalists Rana Ayyub, Sagarika Ghose, social activist Kavita Krishnan are continuously subjected to such threats.
The government and social media websites need to wake up to the growing risk of virtual threats becoming a reality.
In July last year, Priyanka Chaturvedi (earlier with Congress, now with Shiv Sena) also got a rape threat on her Twitter account directed towards her daughter. The man in his tweet asked Chaturvedi to “send her daughter to him as he wants to rape her.” Many on Twitter, including AAP incharge Ankit Lal and MP Sushmita Dev came out in Chaturvedi’s support and condemned the tweet.
“The tweet is not the bigger problem but the fact that an image containing a fake quote attributed to me which is creating this kind of anger and making people to react in the way they are is the bigger issue,” Chaturvedi told SheThePeople at the time. Even when actress Urmila Matondkar joined politics, she faced a lot of criticism on social media for making the career move.
Gendered trolling is another part of the problem. It’s much worse for women who have a view, but get trolled also because she a ‘woman with a view.’ Kanupriya, the first female student president at Panjab University Students’ Council received death threats last month for speaking on the Kashmir issue. She filed an FIR against it with the Senior Superintendent of Police in Chandigarh. The complaint noted that she Kanupriya received threats like “shoot her” and “shoot at sight” on a social media platform.
Journalist Nidhi Razdan was also a victim of online trolls who threatened her through most part of last year. She received messages on Facebook. “My biggest grouse is with the social media platforms first: for example, WHY does Facebook allow ANYONE to message you? Even those who aren’t your friends. Even though it pops up in another inbox, it DOES pop up and then you have to decide whether to accept or decline it. But because people know you’ll get their message, they send obscenities and threats because they can. If my FB account is private, then let it stay private,” said Razdan to SheThePeople.TV in an earlier interview, when the incident happened.
The government and social media websites need to wake up to the growing risk of virtual threats becoming a reality. We need to increase the safety dialogue in a big way and also encourage self regulation and behavioural change on micro blogging sites. Are we having enough conversation on this? Absolutely not.