Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday urged “125 crore Indians” to not “spread dirt through social media”, and instead share “good things around them”.
Critics say Modi himself follows “trolls”, and is only asking people to refrain from calling out the BJP government’s failures.
ThePrint asks – Modi says no more ‘dirt’ on social media: Crackdown on hate speech or BJP political gimmick?
Modi & Amit Shah playing good cop-bad cop to lure moderates & extremists
Prime Minister needs to walk the talk. His statement cannot really be considered a ‘crackdown’ until and unless he implements his words in his own life to begin with. He follows the most abusive individuals on Twitter. He follows some 2000-odd Twitter handles, and half of them are online warriors who peddle a hateful agenda. No other leader in the world of his stature follows trolls in this manner. How can he expect others to follow his words when he doesn’t do so himself?
Also, his own party leaders have the most hateful and vile things to say all the time. Tajinder Bagga, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Anil Vij are a few examples.
In 2015, PM had invited some 150 Twitter followers for tea. While that was a seemingly great gesture, what was shocking was how most of them were Twitter trolls who abuse women and journalists. Instead of trying to preach like Buddha or Mahatma, he needs to practice what he preaches too.
According to me, this is simply an attempt by him at damage control. We are on our way to the 2019 elections – people will judge him on (a) economic progress and (b) social harmony. He knows the BJP has failed on both these counts. Between him and Amit Shah, they’re trying to play good cop-bad cop so that they can lure both moderates as well as the extremists.
I was the first one to expose him and his hateful agenda, post which he invited wrath from across the country. These words are nothing but damage control. BJP is the mother and producer of online hate – now other parties may be catching up.
Modi’s message is for entire country, don’t understand how some people can link it to 2019
National Secretary, BJP
There is a lot of hate speech on social media from all corners. I wouldn’t name anyone categorically, but there is immense potential for individuals and groups, religious and social, to exploit social media. For instance, Rahul Gandhi lied about the SC/ST Act being revoked in order to incite hatred among the masses.
This is not the first time our government has taken steps to curtail abuse on social media. For instance, people can now send WhatsApp forwards to only five people at a time. We are in talks with multiple social media platforms to ensure curbing of hate speech.
Narendra Modi’s message is for the entire country. I don’t understand how some people can link it to the 2019 elections. Social harmony has always been a priority for us. This message is not just for his followers, but for the entire country. He is the Prime Minister of the entire country. Thus, it becomes imperative for everyone to take his message seriously and put an end to fake news as well as hate speech. Social media is often used for both and we need to fight it.
Modi has been most-abused person in India, we should learn from his restraint
Author, Secrets of RSS: Demystifying the Sangh
Modi ji has been the most-abused person in this country in the vilest of terms since 2002. No one has spared him: not the intellectuals or the trolls. He has maintained a dignified silence, except during election campaigns when he has given a firm response to the insults and insinuations. His advice should be seen in the light of his own restraint and his own way of spreading positivity through his conversations like Mann ki baat.
I take three points from his advice. None of which is political in nature. We should rise above petty politics to appreciate what he has said. He says, let us stress on positive news. It is true that if you shut out social media for some time you gain peace of mind and the world doesn’t seem to be such a horrible place after all. I have hardly seen positive news on Indian mainstream media, except for sports victories.
Modi ji says to ignore those who spread negativity. Though this is not possible when the war of ideologies has become so sharp with the Left fearing the loss of its monopoly on intellectual space and becoming shriller, one can always use restraint while responding. I have been responding both positively and negatively to Shekhar Gupta, the Editor-in-Chief, but none can call it trolling.
Modi ji has rightly pointed out that it is not about ideology but about the norms of a decent society. India has an ancient tradition of debating and asserting one’s point of view. India has never seen killing to silence a critic or violence against a viewpoint, whether philosophical or religious or scientific. History is witness to this respect for all points of view – Ekam sat, vipra bahuda vadanti. Let us try to go back to our own traditions of healthy public debate.
PM Modi’s message will hopefully help end malpractices in digital space
Online expert, Centre for Social Research
It is much appreciated that people in power are talking about the impact of social media in the current climate. Negative messaging, fake news, rumours, and political propaganda have led to major complications in the country. It’s about time that it is battled with serious discourse.
Both the users as well as the stakeholders together need to fight hate speech together. A message of this kind coming from the Prime Minister of the country, who is also the most-followed political leader on social media, is huge. It will lead to a much-needed discussion around this issue.
Hopefully, it will also help in ending prevalent malpractices in the digital space. He delivered this speech while addressing the party workers and so, it definitely looks like a genuine plea. He has a huge following from among the masses. As a social media user, I sincerely hope that the masses listen to the message and follow it. It is imperative because all the hate on social media is detrimental to social harmony.
As an elected leader, Modi can’t “sweep” criticism under the carpet
Journalist, The Print
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion to spread “good things” and not “dirt” on social media sounds like a piece of advice from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
By using the term “dirt”, Modi has created a subjective dilemma. “Dirt” for some may imply the caustic hate speech that often incites violence or manufactures hatred. This would include casteist slurs and Islamophobia.
Unfortunately, members of Modi’s own coterie have never refrained from exercising their freedom of speech and allegedly indulging in making provocative statements.
Yogi Adityanath, for instance, allegedly delivered a speech in Gorakhpur in 2007, which led to violence in which nearly a dozen people died. The Supreme Court has now issued a notice to the UP government on a plea challenging the HC decision to accept the state’s refusal to prosecute him in the case.
If it is hate speech Modi wants to counter, then change starts at home. Perhaps, he can begin by deleting the many social media “trolls” that are part of the select 2000 people he follows.
Now, by another turn of phrase, “dirt” often refers to slander and unfounded rumours. As the criticism of Modi government’s policies on social media gain ground, it seems Modi has found a new strategy to combat it. All the opposition’s claims about the Rafale scam, the terrible decision that was demonetisation and the overall “F” (failure) on the government’s economic and foreign policy report card can easily be classified as “dirt”.
As an elected leader, you can’t “sweep” this dirt under the carpet. Accountability, after all, is an accessory that came with your job.
Compiled by Fatima Khan, journalist at The Print. You can follow her @khanthefatima.
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