Anti-Muslim hashtags trending: Ban hate peddlers and act responsibly, activists to Twitter India

A group of activists, journalists and researchers have sent a notice to Twitter India demanding an apology and suspension of accounts of those involved in trending a hashtag #मुस्लिमों_का_सम्पूर्ण_बहिष्कार, meaning ‘total boycott of Muslims’ two days ago on the micro blogging site.

Post this trend, as a citizen collective, they ran an endorsement campaign on social Media platforms asking individuals to sign a letter against twitter India for letting its platform be used for malicious and divisive activities. The campaign had signatures of more than 250 individuals from all walks of life including prominent journalists and policy makers.

Many of the accounts posting #मुस्लिमों_का_सम्पूर्ण_बहिष्कार tweets are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party government.

Regrettably, the fact of bigoted hashtags reaching a nationwide Twitter trend is not an unusual occurrence – on October 18, the hashtags ‘#ProphetisGay’ and the translation, ‘#पै_GAY_म्बर’ trended, managing to be both homophobic and Islamophobic in one fell swoop, while on October the 19, the hashtag ‘#BoycottAllah’ was trending, with about 20,000 tweets, The Wire reported.

The tweets themselves remained on the social media site, even though one could argue that they fall afoul of Twitter’s hateful conduct policy.

A Twitter spokesperson told NewsCentral24x7 that it had “prevented the hashtag from trending”, despite multiple users continuing to say they could see it on the list of trending topics.

Full text of the letter:

We express our deep concern over the hateful and highly offensive content that is being increasingly shared on social media platform, Twitter. Giving open call for boycott of a community, is against the principles enshrined in Indian constitution.

This also violates the law of land. However, letting a section of people who with malafide intention target peace and harmony by tweeting inflammatory stuff, is serious. As a major public platform for exchange of ideas, Twitter has a responsibility and it must abide by Indian laws. Those who apparently tried to ‘trend’ this call for boycott of Muslims on Twitter on October 20, 2019 should have been blocked and the trending needed to be checked.

Unfortunately, despite users tagging Twitter and Twitter India handles, the objectionable hashtags continued and appeared in the ‘trending’ section. As Indian constitution strictly prohibits, any discrimination on the basis of caste, community, creed and gender, it violated Indian laws.

This is pure hate speech and an attempt to divide society on religious lines, something that has the potential to tear the social fabric in the country. Just a day ago, on October 20, 2019, another trending was witnessed–highly objectionable language was used in these tweets that had a hashtag targeting Prophet Muhammad. As per Indian laws, hurting religious sentiments of any community is an offence. But the social media platform was used for this ‘trending’.

Earlier too, there have been tweets that clearly violate laws and spread hate but despite reporting, such accounts remain active. These tweets by individuals with large following were found untrue by independent fact-checkers and even police, however, such accounts were not blocked.
But from individual users, it has now reached another level–coordinated malicious propaganda and hate attack by group of users. Clearly, failure of Twitter in dealing with hate content and letting them off without banning accounts, has resulted in this situation. We regret to say that it appears Twitter officials pay little attention to the hate that is being spread through its platform though it is propaganda and false news has led to lynchings and hate crimes.

It must be remembered that propaganda and targeted demonizing of minorities has resulted in killings in other parts of the world, an example is Rwanda genocide. It could be seen as Twitter India officials’ complicity if Twitter fails to stop hate and doesn’t take action to stop hateful hashtags and such trending on its platform.

India is the world’s biggest democracy. Also, India’s commitment to 17 sustainable development goals by 2030 include peace and justice among them. It is extremely upsetting that messages that spread hate, issue threats, give call for violence and and discrimination, are being shared widely on Twitter. We condemn it and urge Twitter, as well as Twitter India to ban hate peddlers and act as a responsible social media company.

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