Instagram: Promoting Hate Discourse and Bigotry

by November 9, 2018 0 comments

InstagramAmong many other social media applications, Instagram has joined the list of platforms that promote hate discourse and bigotry.

Social media sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are now clearly known to provide a platform for fanning flames of discontent, spreading toxic ideas and fuelling hate-crimes. Instagram, the photo-sharing app, appears to have joined the list. Warning signs that this is happening in a vicious way are very much in evidence; reports in leading media outlets said more than 11,000 fake hashtags-cum-visuals — #jewsdid911 — on Instagram accusing the Jewish community of being responsible for the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in the last week of October that left 11 worshippers dead went viral in the days following the attack. While the carnage was horrific in itself and has rightly been condemned the world over, the Instagram hashtag led to a wave of anti-Semitic feelings being expressed in the US which has had a flawed history of dealing with anti-Jewish sentiments. In fact, the Instagram hook made the task for law-enforcement agencies trying to control an already explosive situation even more difficult. It is truly distressing that in this information age, social media has become the driving force for the worst forms of religious and ethnic intolerance and incitement to violence.

While the human instinct for hate may be innate, it is a fact that the rise of social media for all its positives has empowered sick individuals and groups to spread abuse, bigotry and discrimination and helped those in the business of polarising popular opinion immeasurably. India itself has had a terrible recent history in this regard and many of the mob-lynching incidents over the past couple of years have been social media-propelled. The promotion of hate discourses on social media does the worst damage of all — it hits at psychology of an individual. And when that reaches critical mass, mass psychology takes over. It is not that governments across the globe are not aware of the problem. Germany, for example, has devised a law to specifically tackle online hate, slander and bigotry while other nation-states including India are considering appropriate legislation to deal with this malicious trend. Hate-mongers have to be punished. While it would be unfair to lay all the blame on the companies which own and operate these social media platforms, they have to be made responsible for the content they host in some manner. These companies, for the survival of their own business models if nothing else, must do more than just utter platitudes about being vigilant and claiming promptness in blocking offensive posts and/or the accounts from which they emanate. If not, a sledgehammer is coming their way.

Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer

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