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5 disruptions in social media in 2016

Pathikrit Sanyal
Pathikrit SanyalDec 31, 2016 | 12:23

5 disruptions in social media in 2016

1) Doctored videos of anti-national doctoral candidates

In February, the nation saw definitive proof of an authoritarian, nationalist machinery that loves to label people as anti-nationals and even try to call them seditious. JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested and charged with sedition by the Delhi police for allegedly raising anti-India slogans in a student rally. The rally was called to protest the 2013 hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist convicted for the 2001 Indian Parliament attack.

A video of him went viral on social media. This video, dubbed by many as clinching proof of Kanhaiya raising seditious slogans in the Jawaharlal University (JNU) campus, showed a group of students, including Kanhaiya and Umar Khalid, demanding "azadi" for Kashmir.

The video was later picked up and played up aggressively by a few Hindi and English news channels. A report by the forensics laboratory, which examined the Kanhaiya Kumar "sedition" videos, however, concluded that out of the seven videos shot at JNU, two were doctored. Investigation showed that the video's audio was tampered with and the actual video had no anti-national slogans. In the original video, Kanhaiya was asking to end social ills such as caste and communalism, not raising anti-national slogans.

Isn’t that just lovely?

2) Tanmay Bhat’s Snafu-chat

For a medium that deletes its contents in a maximum of 24 hours, Snapchat managed to create a controversy that lasted for weeks. In May, All India Bakchod co-founder and stand-up comic, Tanmay Bhat, managed to put the nation’s very fabric at jeopardy with his not-so-nuanced comedy act.

The "funny man" used Snapchat’s face-swap filter to play the roles of maestro Lata Mangeshkar and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, in a conversation that would put 12-year-olds to shame. At one point, Tanmay (as Tendulkar) told Tanmay (as Mangeshkar) that she’s too old and if Game of Throne’s Jon Snow can die, then maybe she should as well.

Obviously, this did not go down well with people. Bhat’s Snapchat story, which he later uploaded on his Facebook page, managed to – surprise, surprise – offend the sensibilities of thousands of people. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray actually filed an FIR against Bhat and party leader Ameya Kopekar said, “Forgiveness won’t do, these people should be caught on the road and beaten up. We will protest and he won’t be able to come out on the road. We won’t let his shows happen anymore.”

This entire incident even managed to help create a rather sensible episode of The Newshour, where Arnab Goswami laughed more than he shouted.

3) Piers stream, down Chetan’s face

British journalist, serial outrager and career troll bait Piers Morgan found it perfectly okay to make a rather baseless comparison between India’s population and India’s Olympic medals. Morgan managed to offend almost the whole internet population of India in August, with a tweet: "Country with 1.2 billion people wildly celebrates 2 losing medals. How embarrassing is that?"

What followed were a series of expletives from angry Indians, and a rather sad attempt at “giving it back to him” by Indian bestselling author and opinionator extraordinaire Chetan Bhagat. Unfortunately for Bhagat, he managed to misspell Morgan’s Christian name. Morgan retaliated by intentionally doing the same to Bhagat – he called him Chatan.

Somehow, despite insulting the country, Morgan managed to make the country laugh at Chetan Bhagat. Goes on to show that we, as a nation, don’t care about being belittled, as long as it provides us with ample entertainment.

4) Hack thoo!

Amidst a nation moving towards (read struggling with) digitisation, the Twitter accounts of Congress Party, its vice-president Rahul Gandhi and its media liaison Rachit Seth got hacked. A group of anonymous hackers who call themselves “Legion” made the grim month of November (thanks to demonetisation) a little more entertaining.

Although, the hacks themselves proved nothing more than casual trolling (laced with copious amounts of homophobia and racism), a subsequent hack on on-the-run Industrialist Vijay Mallya at least confirmed that the hackers may have been doing this for something a little more than shits and giggles.

Even NDTV journalists Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar managed to get their accounts hacked. What did this prove? Cyber security practices in India are a bigger joke than Rahul Gandhi.

5) BJP’s Troll Patrol

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The hyperactive right-wing social media warriors may not be what they are by virtue. Or so alleges journalist Swati Chaturvedi. In her new book I Am a Troll, Chaturvedi talks about a fully functional troll factory owned by the BJP that manufactures outrage to suit their agenda.

Chaturvedi’s book maps out how Twitter handles (some very abusive and even followed by the prime minister) work in an organised manner to create outrage, one of which led to the removal of Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador of Snapdeal, after he talked about growing intolerance in India.

According to her, this machinery is headed by BJP’s IT cell chief Arvind Gupta from a social cell located at 11, Ashoka Road. The whistleblower in this case, is a former member of this alleged social media cell, Sadhvi Khosla.

Whether it is run by the ruling government or not, there is no denying the fact that organised outrage does happen on the social media. A quick search on Twitter is enough to tell you that there are tonnes of “egg” handles on the microblogging site who tweet nothing but identical sentences and almost at the same time. But does that imply that all participants in the outrage are part of this organised effort? Certainly not.

But this is social media. We thrive on false binaries.

2016 was a rather interesting year, just from a social media perspective. Judging by the momentum of things, one can safely assume that 2017 will be even more riveting.

Last updated: December 31, 2016 | 12:23
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