When abuse generates revenue, country gets ‘Hindustani Bhaus’ as icons

Representational image of social media apps | Alexander Bahena | Pixabay

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It It took thousands of people to come together and mass report Hindustani Bhau’s Instagram profile. An action that should have been instant, swift and default for violation of community content guidelines, required numerous Twitter trends and 48 hours of non-stop social media outrage before the abusive account was taken down from the photo-sharing platform. His Facebook page, too, has been suspended.

Think of this super-delayed action form the Facebook-owned app and then think of the horrors unleashed on women on these digital platforms every day by faceless troll armies. Those accounts might never get suspended because it requires another army to remind social media platforms about the harassment that is experienced by women who face threats of being raped and killed—day in, day out.

The Hindustani Bhau episode lays bare the abuse culture that is being fed by advertisements, money, fame, brand value and viral content that is full of pseudo nationalism. A meme in the comments section of Hindustani Bhau’s Facebook page perfectly explains this phenomena—you don’t have to be a soldier to talk about protecting the country, you can simply sit in a car and abuse women or a country like China or Pakistan.

Also read: Facebook’s reluctance to take down problem posts must force India towards co-regulation

Abuse culture: From rape threats to bullying

The growing culture of abuse has seeped into people’s daily lives. Nobody cared two hoots when General G.D. Bakshi (retd.)—who has become the face of the force on select TV news channels that chest thump nationalism 24*7—abused a fellow panelist using cuss words. In the ongoing controversy surrounding the alleged death by suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, people didn’t mind some Bhojpuri singers wanting to rape Bollywood actresses Rhea Chakraborty and Alia Bhat.

In the name of pseudo nationalism, for a layman, all abuse is justified on these platforms.

Rape threats, abuses and bullying have become a major part of this online abuse culture. Be it Kangana Ranaut bullying Sara Ali Khan in the name of nationalism or Shubham Mishra wanting to rape a female comedian, or IT Cell trending RGKMKB on Twitter.

Also read: Facebook, Twitter can’t police on speech violation. Only Indian law can

Fake commandos of virtual world

Hindustani Bhau’s case has been highlighted on Instagram and Twitter recently. But, he is not alone. Shaurya Bhardwaj — someone who was seen in a mainstream Hindi film with Tiger Shroff — made a career out of online abuse. In the name of ‘motivational videos’ and deshbhakti, he abused frequently. The fake commando trainer has a virtual troll army that cheers for him.

Vikas Pathak who ran the Hindustani Bhau page had entered Big Boss as a ‘star’. Shubham Mishra, too, had told Gujrat Police how he thought he would be called to a reality show like Bhau was.

Also read: Salman, China, corona craze over, Bhojpuri singers now hurl all profanity at Rhea Chakraborty

When abuse generates revenue

The game of social media platforms is simple. You get the views, you get the advertisements. This is how you generate revenue. And sadly, abuse generates revenue these days. This is the revenue and viewership model of freedom of expression related to pseudo nationalism. It is not freedom of expression per se rather it is endorsement of hate in monetary terms in the garb of freedom of expression.

This abuse, however, is not coming from one way. People countering abuse, too, choose abuse to counter it. A look at Hindustani Bhau’s Facebook page— bombarded with thousands of abusive comments—confirms this trend. This abuse is promoted by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with a verification badge, and there are very slim chances of such accounts being suspended. The rise of Hindustani Bhau aka Vikas Pathak, a bully mainstreamed by Big Boss and Colors channel, is a perfect example of a culture which celebrates abuse. An online abuser, who had more than 3.3 million followers on Instagram became a ‘cult’ among ‘youngsters’ across India.

Also read: Pakistan women journalists say they face online abuse by officials for criticising Imran govt

‘Cult’ and youth ‘icon’

People assuming that Bhau is no more active on Instagram and that the filth has been finally thrown out are in an illusion. He is not alone. There are thousands of youngsters who hail him as their icon, waiting desperately to consume his ‘crass’ videos. They leave comments such as, ‘bhai, aap hamare yahan Assam aao, aao hamare yahan Rajasthan aao.’ After his Instagram account was suspended, his followers have created fan and meme pages in his name. Don’t be surprised if you see trends and hashtags, seeking the revocation of his account’s ban. Or if you see multiple clones already taking shape on social media. You kill one account, and hundreds pop up, Matrix-style. Because the problem doesn’t begin and end with just Hindustani Bhau.

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