Read The Hindu Notes of 28th December 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 28th December 2018
  • Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 28th December 2018
  • India needs ‘individual acts of bravery’

    We are at a juncture where fundamental notions of modern India are under existential threat

    individual acts of bravery
  • Events over the past few years have prompted many to revisit the idea of individual freedom. Indeed, not just in India, but elsewhere too, the idea of individual freedom is under intense scrutiny. Are governments across the world increasingly posing a threat to liberty? By corollary, are fascist policies and rhetoric on the rise?
  • Persons with a liberal bent of mind, who prize individual freedoms like free speech, gender and racial equality, are especially troubled, for our country appears to be at a juncture where fundamental notions of modern India are under existential threat.
  • About secularism
  • One particular freedom that has come under fire is the freedom of practising one’s own religion. Personal freedom is very often associated with secularism, which, as received from the Western canon, is the separation of church from state. Sometimes secularism is also seen as a negation of religion completely. Indeed, many religious leaders taught that secular people do not believe in gods. But in my view, even if you are a temple-going Hindu or a devout Muslim, you can still be secular.
  • Unfortunately, those of us who value religious freedom have been disillusioned by multiple governments once too often. The current BJP-led government has no pretensions about its dislike for the secular idea. Even those governments that proudly flaunt the label of “secularism” have subjected us to their non-secular realpolitik. Take the politics of Rajiv Gandhi, for instance, often touted as a “secular” Prime Minister: his government not only overturned the Shah Bano judgment, but also banned Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and had the locks of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya opened to Hindus. Every political party, including the Congress and the BJP, has played communal politics with everyone in India — Hindu, Muslim, minorities — in the search for pliable vote banks.
  • In contrast, an exhibition of true “secularism” would be open-ended, either agnostic or, at the other extreme, in a country like India where faith is so central, multi-religious. Most importantly, at its heart, true secularism would be driven by universal values of truth, compassion and equality, which are fundamental values that straddle all religions.
  • In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari captures the essence of these values beautifully. Truth, not to be confused with belief, has no sole custodian. Truth is based on observation, evidence, and inference, and is accessible to all. Compassion comes from an understanding of suffering: a compassionate person does not kill not because their faith tells them not to, but because they know that killing causes immense suffering. And the universal value of equality comes from a recognition of both truth and compassion, empowering people to never substitute “uniqueness” with “superiority”. Everyone may be unique in their own way, but they are all still equally unique — no one being more specially so than the other. Ultimately, we cannot find truth, or learn compassion, or appreciate equality if we have no freedom to think, to question, to seek, to find these for ourselves. These freedoms are, ultimately, the most valuable. Recognising these freedoms was central to the politics of Mahatma Gandhi. Sadly, our leaders since have either forgotten or chosen to turn a blind eye to these ideas completely.
  • Constitution as saviour
  • What can we do to change this? We need not look to foreign shores or to long-forgotten pasts. We only need to open India’s nearly 70-year-old liberal manifesto. The Constitution contains all the declarations essential to a nation that preserves individual liberties. It is for us to protect it from neglect and disrepair.
  • It was B.R. Ambedkar, the key driver of the Constituent Assembly, who said: “The assertion by the individual of his own opinions and beliefs, his own independence and interest as over and against group standards… is the beginning of all reform.” These ideas also find their way into the Constitution.
  • Even as the Constitution was being written, even as the leaders of the independence movement were negotiating for our freedom, Hindutva forces present at the time — the days of the advent of the Hindu Mahasabha, of Veer Savarkar and B.S. Moonje — were suspicious of secular ideas. They were, instead, great admirers of Hitler and Mussolini, with Moonje even going to Italy to meet the latter, and Savarkar justifying Hitler’s treatment of Jews.
  • This suspicion continues amongst the legatees of the Hindu Mahasabha, in their mistrust of the Indian Constitution, for it is this document borrowed from Western ideals, they believe, that obstructs the idea of the Hindu Rashtra. In today’s India, as a result, the most liberal document that we have, the Constitution, is at risk.
  • Fascism on the horizon?
  • In his new book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley identifies 10 characteristics that define fascist political movements. For example: “Fascism always promises to return us to a mythic past.” Similarly, fascist politicians use propaganda, for example, about anti-corruption campaigns, even when they are transparently corrupt. Another aspect is anti-intellectualism, for the “enemy of fascism is equality,” and the target of such anti-intellectual campaigns are places of learning, like universities. How can the educated elite know anything about anything, the fascist believes. Only the mythical “common man” can know what is right; note the emphasis on “man”, which includes no women, or racial and sexual minorities. The similarities do not end there. Unlike liberal democracies, based on freedom and equality, fascist regimes posit the dominant group’s interests as the ultimate, unquestionable truth. The dominant group is also always the victim of the situation. They rely on conspiracy theories to justify calls to power. And most tellingly, fascist politicians promise a law and order regime designed not to seek out offenders, but to criminalise outliers, who are usually ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. Professor Stanley has the U.S. in mind, but surely there is some resonance closer home.
  • Today, we live in an India where we are told what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot watch, what we can and cannot speak about, and who we can or cannot marry. Dissent, particularly in universities and public spaces, is being curbed. Sloganeering and flag raising have become tests for nationalism. Journalists are shot dead at point blank range for the views they hold and propagate. Not long ago, the police arrested five political activists essentially for thought crimes and taking up the cause of the tribals. More recently, when actor Naseeruddin Shah expressed legitimate concerns about growing vigilantism, his views were blown out of proportion, and misunderstood as an expression of disloyalty to the country. Even public institutions like the central bank have not been spared. A school of thought appears to have gained prominence in India which believes that everything can be solved by violence, and that it is always better to have power concentrated in a few men.
  • As a judge, naturally, I wonder if the courts will save the Constitution. I am honestly sceptical about this. Although the Supreme Court has delivered some wonderful judgments recently, can the court fully play out its role as the ultimate defender of the Constitution? The past record of the judiciary in testing times is not very encouraging, if we think of the Emergency. New allegations that the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) was perhaps being “remote controlled” do not invite much confidence either.
  • A few other things trouble me too: our present CJI, before taking office, publicly lectured about independent judges and noisy journalists. Just recently, the judicial system allowed a journalist in Odisha to remain in jail for over a month for making certain remarks about the Sun Temple in Konark. Our Supreme Court even refused to grant him bail, reportedly remarking that if one’s life were in danger, what better place was there than to stay in jail. When the court is angered about the publication of information pertaining to the working of critical public institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation on grounds of confidentiality, one cannot help but worry.
  • All this has made me less optimistic about the judiciary doing its bit. Ultimately, it is the people who will protect the Constitution, and all of the wisdom it contains about personal liberties and individual freedoms. Professor Stanley phrases this appropriately when he says, “The ordinary citizen [must] stand up and loudly confront people who engage in... fascist rhetoric and not be afraid. Those millions of acts of individual bravery, if we can stitch together, will save us.” This is a time for individual acts of bravery. These are what will save us from a dangerous future.
  • The optics of the Third Front

    Distancing and aligning is the new strategy for 2019

  • Politics is the art of the possible as much as it is a vision of the future. It needs to speak to the existing reality and re-signify it to change the terms of discourse to create new possibilities. If it is too utopian, it fails to become experiential — and if it is too pragmatic, it fails to change anything substantially.
  • The Sangh’s narrative
  • In this changing landscape of the political discourse, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have managed, in a rhetorical and metaphorical sense, to capture this essence of politics, while containing it within the limits of their regressive/authoritarian vision of the future. They have appropriated the urge for change and all that was potentially liberating to enforce the status quo. They managed to tie the process of deepening caste representation to a militant Hindu identity, and the emergence of an aspirational generation beyond the pale of patronage to a corrosive neoliberal corporatisation. The BJP-RSS combine has seized the moment of breakdown of patron-client relations to create an authoritarian imagination. It is in this context, more than ever before, that the content and contours of Muslim politics becomes very significant in deciding what direction the political narrative is set to take.
  • The Sangh Parivar has been at the forefront of redesigning new strategies, given the immense social power it wields. Among other things, new electoral strategies, unthinkable a few years back, have become not only acceptable but also decisive, to which all other political formations are now responding. One such strategy has been to forge unlikely alliances in order to garner a numerical majority, including the BJP’s now unravelled pact with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir, the coalition with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in Bihar, and various understandings across the Northeast.
  • On similar lines, the BJP has been crafting the strategy of distancing itself and taking on parties before the polls to find its strength, and then aligning with them in a post-poll arrangement. This strategy was on display in the Assembly elections in Telangana. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had an undeclared pact with the BJP, but during the campaign both took on each other to consolidate the constituencies they were appealing to, without cutting into each other’s votes. The Third Front strategy initiated by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS clearly represents this kind of a strategy. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week (in photo) and declared the possibility of a post-poll alliance in 2019, even though he had attacked Mr. Modi and the BJP during the Assembly campaign for being “Hindu-Muslim” in everything.
  • This strategy of distancing and aligning also opens up pre-fabricated political spaces for weaker and less influential political formations, and one such force is that of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Mr. Owaisi has decided to align himself with the TRS, while continuing to distance himself from the BJP and the Congress. This equidistance from the BJP and the Congress allows him to play a distinct Muslim-identity politics, while aligning with the TRS that has supported the BJP in all important votes, including in the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential elections. The AIMIM will continue to garner Muslim votes citing the threat of the BJP, and the BJP will consolidate the majority Hindu votes. They consider this strategy as mutually beneficial, without eroding their respective social bases.
  • Curious two-step
  • As part of the theatrics of this emergent strategy, the BJP-RSS continue to remind the electorate of the Telangana of the past, including the autocratic rule of the Nizam culminating with the violence unleashed by the Razakars, while the AIMIM mobilises support by playing on memories of glory days of the Hyderabad princely state. This empty rhetoric of the Owaisis perfectly fits into what the BJP-RSS wants in order to expand and grow in Telangana.
  • Muslim politics needs new content and imagination that can beat this majoritarian strategy of distancing and aligning, if it intends to break out of this perpetual cycle of vulnerability and dependence. Unfortunately the current experiment of the Third Front is representative of both the political might of majoritarianism and the willing submission of regional parties and minority politics.
  • Snooping or saving?

    Proposed rules for online monitoring should balance legitimate interest with privacy

  • Laws seeking to regulate online activity, especially on social media, will have to be tested against two fundamental rights: free speech and privacy. Regulations that abridge these rights tend to operate in both positive and negative ways. For instance, statutory norms relating to data protection are seen as essential to protect citizens from any breach of their informational privacy; but attempts to regulate online content are seen with suspicion. The latter category evokes doubt whether they violate their freedom of expression (as enforcement of such rules may involve blocking websites, disabling accounts, removing content and intercepting communication), and amount to surveillance that breaches privacy. Two official documents, one of them a draft proposal, that seek to introduce changes in the way rules for interception and monitoring of computer-based information are applied have caused a furore. The first was an order authorising 10 agencies under the Centre to implement Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, as amended in 2008, which allows interception, monitoring and decryption of information transmitted through or stored in a computer resource. The other is a draft proposing changes to the rules framed in 2011 for “intermediaries” such as Internet and network service providers and cyber-cafes. While the order listing 10 agencies does not introduce any new rule for surveillance, the latter envisages new obligations on service providers.
  • A critical change envisaged is that intermediaries should help identify the ‘originator’ of offending content. Many were alarmed by the possibility for surveillance and monitoring of personal computers that this rule throws up. The government has sought feedback from social media and technology companies, but it appears that even services that bank on end-to-end encryption may be asked to open up a backdoor to identify ‘originators’ of offending material. There is justified concern that attempts are on to expand the scope for surveillance at a time when the government must be looking at ways to implement the Supreme Court’s landmark decision holding that privacy is a fundamental right. Some of these rules, originally framed in 2009, may have to be tested against the privacy case judgment, now that the right has been clearly recognised. It is indeed true that the court has favoured stringent rules to curb online content that promotes child pornography or paedophilia, foments sectarian violence or activates lynch-mobs. While the exercise to regulate online content is necessary, it is important that while framing such rules, a balance is struck between legitimate public interest and individual rights. And it will be salutary if judicial approval is made an essential feature of all interception and monitoring decisions.
  • Battle for Dhaka

    Bangladesh goes to the polls amid allegations of high-handedness by the government

  • Demands by the Opposition in Bangladesh for the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner just days ahead of the December 30 parliamentary election reflect the bitter divisions that have undermined the credibility of government agencies. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main constituent of the Opposition Jatiya Oikya Front, claims that 9,200 of its activists have been arrested since the election schedule was announced. The country has seen a spike in political violence, mainly targeting the Opposition. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina denies the allegations and blames the BNP for violence. Last week, Mahbub Talukdar, an election commissioner, said there was no level playing field between the ruling Awami League and the Opposition. In a report published on December 22, Human Rights Watch said that “arrests and other repressive measures... have contributed to a climate of fear”. Ever since democracy was restored in 1990-91, election seasons have been tumultuous. In the past when the BNP was in power, it had refused to step down after its tenure ended. In 1996, the Awami League led mass movements for elections, while in 2006 a military-backed caretaker government postponed the election, which was finally held in December 2008. Since then, Ms. Hasina has held power.
  • This time, she is seeking re-election with a formidable record in government. During the last 10 years the economy has seen a relatively high growth rate, hitting 7.8% last fiscal. Bangladesh also improved on social indicators over the past decade. While the Sheikh Hasina government takes credit for this as well as its tough stand on Islamist militancy, it faces criticism for its authoritarian turn. The passing of the Digital Security Bill and the crackdown on student protests in Dhaka drew flak even from Awami League supporters. On the other side, the Opposition is trying to channel the resentment towards the government. Khaleda Zia, BNP leader and a former Prime Minister, is disqualified from contesting as she is in prison for corruption, and the Opposition has brought in Kamal Hossain, a jurist who was a minister in Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government, to lead the alliance. But the Opposition’s tacit alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the militant Islamist party whose registration with the Election Commission was revoked after a 2013 court ruling, has been alarming. BNP workers too have been involved in violent incidents. For the Awami League, the election should have been an opportunity to break with the history of violence and seek the mandate based on its performance. But its increasing tendency to use force against the Opposition and the violence by its party activists have already marred the election process.
  • Are India’s laws on surveillance a threat to privacy?

    India might soon become a police state with bureaucrats having access to personal information

  • Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark judgment that privacy is a fundamental right. There were celebrations across the nation after this judgment. Sadly, however, the same court completely changed its character a year later in the Aadhaar judgment. It upheld Aadhaar-PAN linkage and allowed the unique number to be used for government schemes and subsidies. Thus, the segment of the population that neither pays tax nor avails of any government subsidy is now left out. After this judgment, the wheels of governance seem to be rolling in a different direction. Apart from passing small but insidious executive orders on a regular basis, both the Central and State governments have now started taking steps to curtail the liberties of citizens.
  • Denying the right to privacy
  • The best example of this came to light recently. This month, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order granting authority to 10 Central agencies, including the Delhi Commissioner of Police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, to pry on individual computers and their receipts and transmissions “under powers conferred on it by sub-section 1 of Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000), read with Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009”. It has authorised these “security and intelligence agencies” to intercept, monitor and decrypt any “information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”. This is seen as an extreme measure to deny people their right to privacy — more so because agencies such as the Delhi Police, the CBI, and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence cannot be strictly termed as organisations concerned with homeland security. Internal security is the main excuse being given for issuing such a directive. Given that the Lok Sabha election is to take place next year, the executive order seems to hint at a different game being played.
  • The sole fascination of this government seems to be collection of data. With an unquenchable thirst for information, the government at the Centre and most governments in the States have set out on a surveillance race. This will be the fastest process to turn India into a police state. While politicians change every five years, the country’s governance system is being left at the mercy of bureaucrats. It is this class of people which is pushing the ‘police state’ agenda. This especially becomes easy when the democratically elected leader starts suspecting every other elected member as well as citizens. Taking advantage of this mindset of paranoia and isolation, underlined with the greed for power, the bureaucrat seems the most trustworthy and harmless. It is obvious that he will not aspire for the ultimate throne that these apex politicians desire. This makes him a non-adversary.
  • Cloak-and-dagger surveillance
  • The MHA order that empowers these 10 agencies to do whatever they want makes it clear that panic has set in. This fear is a threat to democracy at large. With this kind of cloak-and-dagger surveillance being encouraged by the system, India might soon end up as a police state with bureaucrats at the lowest level having access to personal information of virtually every citizen.
  • We need to move towards a new legal framework for surveillance

  • Over the past decade, we have been witness to many legal, juridical and executive interventions that comprise the highly contentious terrain of surveillance in digital times — from the amendment to Section 69 of the IT Act in 2008 that expanded the government’s powers of interception, to the recent Supreme Court order directing the Central government to frame guidelines for social media intermediaries to address sexually abusive content.
  • The Centre’s most recent proposal to amend the Intermediary Rules, 2011, has been justified as necessary to trace the “originator” of “unlawful” information, in the wake of a fake news epidemic. The Government of India has claimed that social media has brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies, including inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, and incitement to violence.
  • Powers of the state
  • The regime’s moral panic is not all unfounded. It is partly explained by the fact that communication arenas in the digital age are mostly controlled by transnational corporations. Over the last few months, there have been several cases where the police have expressed their inability to trace offenders because intermediaries have refused to cooperate.
  • Trends in surveillance point to an obvious tension that the scale of communication activity and its private architecture represent for state agencies. To bring justice to victims of online gender-based violence, the police must obviously do what may be necessary to marshal evidence and trace the offender. However, as critics have held, the overly broad contours of the proposed amendment to the Intermediary Rules confer unchecked powers on the executive, reminiscent of the arbitrariness that led to the famous Shreya Singhal case (2015). In the absence of judicial or legislative oversight, such powers result not only in a disproportionate restriction on individual fundamental right to privacy, but also have far-reaching consequences for other freedoms — a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and association and democratic participation. Also, cybersecurity experts caution that it’s not possible to create a “back door” decryption to target one individual, and that tampering with encryption can compromise security for all.
  • Hence, the digital environment requires a rethink on the rule of law, the very basis upon which the logical connection between constitutional principles, legal norms and procedural rules is tied together. We need not debate the whether or why of surveillance, but the how, when, and what kind of surveillance, moving towards a new legal framework for surveillance.
  • Test of proportionality
  • All measures within such a framework must pass the test of proportionality specified by the right to privacy judgment. They must also account for how digital technologies are implicated in the problems of opacity, arbitrariness and impunity that characterise the rules and current practices of surveillance. Intermediaries must be mandated to locate servers in India. The oversight of algorithms, employed by state agencies and corporations, is an important aspect. Rules for digital evidence collection must be specific to technological applications. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that law enforcement officials can make requests for such information only after obtaining a warrant, which requires them to demonstrate probable cause.
  • The Centre’s attempt to tinker with the Intermediary Rules seems to suggest a cart-before-horse approach, with little thinking on how its social and technological fallouts will impede the rights that make a robust democracy.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the right to privacy can be superseded to protect national interest

  • The Constitution of India guarantees every citizen the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The Supreme Court, in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), ruled that privacy is a fundamental right. But this right is not unbridled or absolute. The Central government, under Section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, has the power to impose reasonable restrictions on this right and intercept, decrypt or monitor Internet traffic or electronic data whenever there is a threat to national security, national integrity, security of the state, and friendly relations with other countries, or in the interest of public order and decency, or to prevent incitement to commission of an offence.
  • Right to privacy is not absolute
  • Only in such exceptional circumstances, however, can an individual’s right to privacy be superseded to protect national interest. The Central government passed the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, that allow the Secretary in the Home Ministry/Home Departments to authorise agencies to intercept, decrypt or monitor Internet traffic or electronic data. In emergency situations, such approval can be given by a person not below the Joint Secretary in the Indian government. In today’s times, when fake news and illegal activities such as cyber terrorism on the dark web are on the rise, the importance of reserving such powers to conduct surveillance cannot be undermined.
  • There should be some reasonable basis or some tangible evidence to initiate or seek approval for interception by State authorities. This is the position in the U.S. Any action without such evidence or basis would be struck down by courts as arbitrary, or invasive of one’s right to privacy. Therefore, the framework of the prescribed procedure needs to be adhered to, and its implementation needs conformance, both in letter and spirit. Any digression from the ethical and legal parameters set by law would be tantamount to a deliberate invasion of citizens’ privacy and make India a surveillance state.
  • Checks and balances
  • The government needs to increase accountability and responsibility, and infuse reasonable checks and balances in exercising these surveillance powers. The recent order passed by the Central government is within the ambit of its powers under Section 69 of the IT Act. However, present implementation of the Intermediary Rules of 2011 will have to be tested on the grounds of reasonableness, fairness, proportionality and judicious exercise of powers.
  • Another important aspect is that an individual may not even know if her electronic communications are being intercepted/monitored. If such surveillance comes within her knowledge, due to the obligation to maintain confidentiality and provisions in the Official Secrets Act, she would not be able to know the reasons for such surveillance. This can make surveillance provisions prone to misuse.
  • Therefore, the role of the review committee is quite significant: The committee will aid in checking any arbitrariness in the exercise of these powers. Only 10 agencies have been declared as authorised agencies to confer certainty in this regard.
  • In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (1996), the Supreme Court had set rules for the judicious exercise of surveillance and interception in phone tapping cases. The same fundamental principles should hold good in cyberspace too.
  • Trolls are still winning

    If Twitter is serious about tackling hate speech and abusive content, it should heed Amnesty’s advice

  • Officially, Twitter has strong rules against abuse and hate speech on its platform, yet nothing much seems to happen once abuse has been reported. The attacks continue, and victims are silenced. This has been a source of frustration not just for Twitter users but even for the company’s senior staff. In an internal memo in 2015 that was leaked, then Twitter CEO Dick Costolo not only admitted that Twitter “sucks” at dealing with abuse and trolls but also that the platform has “sucked at it for years”.
  • Three years later, nothing much has changed. In March, Amnesty International released a report titled ‘Toxic Twitter’. Based on research conducted over a 16-month period, it concluded that Twitter was failing in its responsibility to protect “women of colour, women from ethnic or religious minorities, lesbian, bisexual or transgender women — as well as non-binary individuals — and women with disabilities” from online violence and abuse.
  • This month, Amnesty released another study which found that black women were 84% more likely than white women to be the target of an abusive or problematic tweet. The study, based on crowd-sourced research from over 6,500 volunteers in 150 countries, constitutes data-based evidence of the lack of effective deterrence on Twitter against abuse of vulnerable groups in general and women in particular.
  • As if to buttress these findings, in its latest Transparency Report, covering January to June 2018, Twitter revealed that around 6.2 million ‘unique’ accounts were reported for possible violations of its rules. Of these, 2.8 million were reported for abuse, nearly 2.7 million for hate speech, and about 1.3 million for violent threats. These are mind-boggling numbers. Twitter claims to have acted against 250,000 accounts for abuse, 285,000 for hate speech, and nearly 43,000 for violent threats. These numbers — in the low hundreds of thousands — are a fraction of the millions that it says were reported. Does this then mean that most of the complaints of abuse, hate speech and threats were false? Twitter offers no credible explanation for the enormous gap between the number of reported accounts and the number of accounts against which action was taken. Does the discrepancy between the two point to an explanation as to why abusive trolls continue to have a field day on Twitter?
  • The most charitable view is that Twitter has good intentions but is genuinely clueless. If that is indeed the case, it should heed Amnesty’s recommendation to share with the public the raw data on its content moderation and rule enforcement processes, so that users can see for themselves the chain of actions, if any, set off by their complaints. That is the least it can do to reassure the public that their complaints are taken seriously, and that the platform is doing its best to offer a safe space for women and vulnerable groups.
  • The writer is the Social Affairs Editor of The Hindu