The Grey Landscape of Cyber Trolls
In the last couple of years, creation of memes and trolls ( mostly of movie stars and politicians) have become an art form in India. There are some incredibly talented people in Kerala who have done very humorous political satires in this medium. As with any medium, this also has people who creates trolls which are mean and hurtful — usually aimed at public figures. So how do we recognize the point when a mean past-time becomes a crime? [Day 19 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.]
When I was in High School, there was a party organized at home. My favourite uncle was having a beer. I went and helped myself to a large gulp. And spent the rest of the evening with a beatific expression which was to later become my tell — for anyone to guess if I have had a drink or not.
So how is this related to cyber trolling? In the above instance I was clearly not of drinking age in any country. I took a gulp knowing full well that it is alcohol — something a child in school is not allowed to do. Do I become punishable under law? My legal guardians — were they culpable under this digression? I don’t think so.
I am trying to analyze the layman thinking here. When does a minor digression become crime? In the cyber world, you and your children may do something untoward and you rest in the belief that you have not done anything physical…so you have not committed a “real” crime and you forgive yourself or your near and dear ones rather easily. Perhaps if a nasty comment posted by your child comes to your attention, you may let him/her off with a minor reprimand.
As I mentioned above, we have all enjoyed a good satirical troll created to drive home the point of some idiosyncratic politician. When the humor aspect goes down and the cruelty quotient goes up, we turn a blind eye towards it. Because there is no one to hold accountable. When this becomes vicious and disparaging comments on people’s social media accounts and emails, we still turn a blind eye.
Internet trolls is a colloquial expression used to define anyone who purposely and actively provoke, defame, tease or incite other online users. More often than not, trolls do not know personally the people whom they are victimizing.
I once happened to scroll down the comments underneath the picture of a malayalam movie heroine. There were such vulgar comments — actually, I am sure if a behavioural analyst had read and analyzed those comments, half of them would be committed to an asylum as they are budding psychopaths.
These are young people whom you and I meet everyday. And they behave very well with you. You do not feel threatened by them. So what makes these people monsters under the veil of a false name and this amorphous ambiguous ether called “Internet”?
- They do not feel culpable as they are essentially “doing this” to a screen.
- They do not understand that implied threats to physically harm the subject is Cyber stalking punishable under law.
- There are not enough precedents where the guilty have been punished
I believe it is critical that we make a conscious effort to educate our youth about their responsibilities in an online world. This has to be done at home and at schools. Rather that restricting internet usage in schools and colleges, perhaps sensitization in the right conduct is what is needed.
I think there are three reasons why education on Internet Trolling is so critical:
- Right now all the articles and seminars are focused on what the person should or should not do as to protect oneself. No one is educating the young minds on why doing something is inappropriate. Why it can hurt people. Why it is a crime.
- To make them aware that when someone does it, they need to call it out. Not suffer in silence or turn a blind eye to it.
- Children(and adults for that matter) often do not how to escalate when faced with Cyber Trolls. Creating awareness is very important.
Let us not wait for the person at the receiving end need to commit suicide for the act of trolling to be a real crime.
This is a subject I would love to know more about. If you have more information to educate on the psychology behind such actions and what the laws against them are, please do share in the comment section below. It will be useful for a lot of people.