New Delhi: Social media has intensified religious intolerance in India, says a report by the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights which highlights the “targeting of Muslims” by backers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and other right-leaning Hindu nationalist groups as the “most troubling abuse of YouTube” in the country.
The report, titled ‘A Platform “Weaponized”: How YouTube Spreads Harmful Content – And What Can Be Done About It’. It outlines YouTube’s role in spreading political disinformation, public health myths and incitement of violence. Social media has intensified religious intolerance in India, highlights the “targeting of Muslims” by backers of the ruling BJP and other right-leaning Hindu nationalist groups as the “most troubled abuse of YouTube” in the country.
The report flags conspiracy theories that were spread at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic that Muslims purposefully spread the virus as a form of ‘Jihad’, targeting of Muslim vendors and the presence of several channels that thrive on Islamophobic content that demeans Muslims and incites violence against them.
The report says, “Religious intolerance long predated the arrival of YouTube in India, but widespread social media use has intensified the hostility”. The report also says, “menacing online attacks on women often blend with anti-Muslim themes in India”, saying a spate of misogynistic rants by “nationalistic Indian YouTube influencers have made such invective popular on the platform”. It links to a report about popular YouTube personalities who issued physical threats to women. “When YouTube deleted some of the misogynistic accounts, creators simply started new ones.
Another genre of hate videos features photos of Muslim women gleaned from public sources and facetiously puts the subjects ‘up for sale’, sometimes leading to abusive comments and talk of rape,” it says, referring to the Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai apps. The report also says the Union government’s new IT Rules, which give it the authority to remove content on social media platforms, complicate these challenges.
The report discusses the “rabbit hole” effect – people finding more and more extreme videos through YouTube’s recommendations. Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth political scientist, told the report’s authors he was less worried about unwitting users “tumbling down rabbit holes than about small number of extremists who know what they’re looking for and find it by means of YouTube’s search function or by subscribing to channels dedicated to conspiratorial or hateful content”. Web Desk