Within the world of the internet, individuals feel as they are allowed to post as they please as countries like Canada and the United States have laws surrounding free speech, yet in countries like India, this idea of free speech is not a given right. Companies such as Twitter and Facebook are being put in the middle of India’s protest between the farmers and the government surrounding new legislation being implemented. These tech giants allow for information to be presented that gives themselves some advantage rather than disseminating true and accurate news at all times.
The farmer’s protests occurring in India has been announced as the largest protest in human history (Kim 2021, para. 1), yet is receiving little to no attention in the western world due to political relationships with the Indian government. The protests have not only occurred in India yet have reached areas such as Vancouver, Silicon Valley, and Toronto, where the Indian population is high. The protests started due to new laws allowing for a great chance of the Indian crop market becoming insanely volatile; this is through the government removing the minimum price of crops (Hollingsworth et al. 2020, para.11-12). The laws on paper seem enticing due to removing a mediator such as the government who regulated the price before the new legislation. Yet, farmers fear that this removal will allow large corporations to deregulate the market as they can control the market without a minimum price (Hollingsworth et al. 2020, para.16).
India has laws surrounding how individuals can speak of the government; therefore, after the Indian government asked for Twitter to block all accounts speaking poorly about the government’s new laws, Twitter followed suit (Iyengar 2021, para. 8). Twitter claims that they are finding ways for these media outlets to operate on their platform within India as they believe in free expression without hate (Iyengar 2021, para.22). Yet, Twitter is also known for not backing off high-ranking officials as seen with Donald Trump’s banning (Iyengar 2021, para. 22). Twitter is in a fight with a government whose population has an enormous impact on Twitter’s user count; therefore, every move Twitter makes must be looked at in their best interest as well.
What the Indian government is forcing Twitter to do with the banning of activists who are publishing why the new legislation is wrong and why the current government is acting in a corrupt manner is similar to Suler’s work of minimizing authority. Suler mentions that individuals in the online sphere are all given an equal playing field, although who you are outside of this online sphere may give certain advantages (Suler 2004, para. 14). As seen in the case mentioned above, the Indian governments are forcing Twitter to ban accounts that speak against the new farming laws; this showcases the influence from an individual’s position outside of the online sphere. Although authority is not fully minimized as clear as Suler implies, it still touches on its aspects. Suler continues to say that individuals are more open to speaking their minds on the internet due to the lack of authority figures in their immediate presence (Suler 2004, para.15). As the protest continues in India, this may be true; as seen on the news, individuals speaking out in public and on the media are being reported missing. Many speculate that it is the government and police taking these individuals (Sehgal 2021, para.1). Therefore celebrities such as Rihanna, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Greta Thunberg, who do not appear to have any ties to India, have tweeted about the situation as they are not afraid of the government and the possible repercussions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all celebrities inside India who have appeared to be sent a premade tweet claiming the tweets seen by celebrities mentioned above were propaganda and that the country is currently united (Mishra et al. 2021, p.1).
Within this case, social media cannot be seen as a tool for democracy as what is known as the world’s largest democracy is acting in ways of a dictatorship as they push their narrative of the new farming legislation being beneficial. The Indian government claims they are a democracy yet aforementioned; they are sending pre-constructed tweets to celebrities to push their narrative. Stars within the country are afraid of what could happen if they speak out against the leadership. However, not all celebrities are colluding to speak against the protest, as those who are raising awareness about what is going on are being applauded. With a country this size that is committing acts that follow dictatorships’ reigns and have such a major influence over apps like Twitter and Facebook, social media cannot be seen as a democratic space.
Within this case social media cannot be seen as a tool for democracy as what is known as the world’s largest democracy is acting in ways of a dictatorship as they push their narrative of the new farming legislation being beneficial. The Indian government claims they are a dictatorship yet aforementioned they are sending pre-constructed tweets to celebrities to push their narrative, celebrities within the country are afraid of what could possibly happen if they speak out against the leadership. Although not all celebrities are colluding to speak against the protest those who are raising awareness about what is going on are being applauded. With a country this size that is committing acts that follow the reigns of dictatorships and have such a major influence over apps like Twitter, social media cannot be seen as a democratic space.
Hollingsworth, J. (2020). Thousands of farmers swarm India’s capital to protest deregulation rules. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/01/asia/delhi-farmers-india-protests-intl-hnk/index.html
Iyengar, R. (2021)Twitter is stuck between a rock and a hard place in India. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/09/tech/twitter-india-government-farmer-protests/index.html
Kim, I. (2021). 250 million farmers in India are taking a stand against the government as part of the biggest protest in history. Here’s why the US and the world should pay attention. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/indian-farmer-strike-largest-protest-history-us-world-pay-attention-2020-12
Mishra, D., Akbar, S.Z., Arya, A., Dash, S., Grover, R., & Pal, J. (2021). Rihanna versus Bollywood: Twitter Influencers and the Indian Farmers’ Protest. arXiv preprint arXiv2102.04031.
Sehgal, M. (2021). Over 100 protesters from Punjab missing after Red Fort incident, claims NGO. Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/over-100-protesters-punjab-missing-red-fort-incident-claims-ngo-1764263-2021-01-30
Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition effect. Cyberpsychology & Behaviour, 7(3), 321-326