Social media platforms must held accountable for letting hate speech thrive, but asking for a ban on TikTok won’t solve any of our problems.
Anger towards Faizal Siddiqui, the popular TikTok creator whose account has been suspended for glorifying acid attacks, is justified. But channeling this rage by demanding a ban on TikTok proves that not only is your anger misplaced, but your approach is also myopic, superficial and fruitless.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but acid attacks will not stop because some outraged upper middle-class Indians gave TikTok a bad rating on Play Store. (moved up)
Acid attacks are one of the most common crimes against women in India. Most cases reported attribute male frustration after facing rejection from women as a common cause for the violent act. In a hypermasculine society like ours, men believe they are the superior gender and women who do not bow down to this fact must be taught a lesson. If you’re fuming and want justice for acid-attack victims, consider this — India sees the highest number of acid attacks in the world, but the least number of convictions, less than 5 per cent every year.
A demand for retribution never actually addresses the root cause of the problem, which in this case is pervasive rape culture in Indian society.
If you want to be an armchair activist, please go ahead. But don’t stop at demanding a ban on TikTok. If you must contribute to a Google or Twitter trend, let it be #CancelRapeCulture and #DownWithPatriarchy. The hate and trolling you will receive in return might make you realise how long the fight to ensure safety for women truly is.
Rehabilitation not retribution
Men grow up in a world in which women must make space for them, whether by dodging them, helping them, or ‘gladly’ accepting the role of standing right behind them as they go on to achieve greatness — behold the “behind every successful man is a woman” trope.
The truth is that schools are propagators of rape culture. When a teachers stands in front of an entire classroom with a mathematical compass to rip open up the seams of girl’s skirt, making it long enough so that she doesn’t ‘reveal’ her knees, what kind of message does it send to male students of the class? Moral policing slut shaming female students for wearing even lip balm cannot be justified as helping maintain decorum.
Part of the problem is our sex-averse school system, in which teachers shy away from even uttering the word ‘sex’, even when the subject matter being taught is reproduction. Even eight years after the 2012 Delhi rape case shook the entire country, there has been close to no educational reform. In 2019, the Delhi government introduced a gender sensitisation curriculum, wherein male students were made to take pledge to respect women.
— a perfect example of India’s redundant approach towards gender-based issues.
In Bollywood, too, the ‘chase’ has been glorified to such toxic level, that refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer and continuing to pursue (harass) a woman is considered the ultimate expression of love.
This is where acid attacks, rape and molestation find their roots. Unfortunately, the #NotAllMen defence is thrown up whenever conversations around such ‘uncomfortable’ issues come up.
Can’t let apps go scot-free
The responsibility social media has to not let hate speech thrive cannot and should not be dismissed.
Hate-filled messages, in fact, help social media giants make money because they end up attracting millions of views and shares. Hence, social media platforms end up doing very little to help regulate such content.
Social media platforms are also not held accountable for content generated by users on their platforms, as per Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, which exempts intermediaries from liability in cases where they did not themselves upload objectionable content.
But this seems to be changing as the demand and need for regulation becomes more urgent.
Fake news on WhatsApp can lead to riots, lynchings and is often used by political parties as a machinery to push their propaganda. Amid the pandemic, WhatsApp has limited how many messages can be forwarded at a time in the latest bid to curb fake news. It has also started a campaign educating users about not only the punitive consequences of forwarding fake news but also generating awareness of the kind of harm it can bring to society.
The educational campaign by Whatsapp comes closest to targeting a certain behaviour at its core, rather than merely issuing warnings.
Views are personal.