The Delhi Police recently arrested Fridays for Future activist Disha Ravi in connection with a Farmer’s Protest toolkit shared by Greta Thunberg. Indian Police accused Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist of sedition for helping to create and share an online “protest toolkit” that outlined how to support the mass protests by farmers in the country. Critics and activists across the world have condemned the action by stating that the charges against Ravi are politically motivated and represent an escalation of the Indian government’s clampdown on dissenters.
Ravi’s action is seen by the current government as an attempt to build online narrative which may impact the political and social agendas. This worry of the government is not unfound. People within the ruling party are sharing similar toolkit. For example, BJP affiliate Kapil Mishra through his twitter handle announced about Hindu Ecosystem (HES) on 16th Nov, 2020. The google form used for recruiting requires one to indicate ‘any special interest in topics like Gau Raksha (cow vigilantism), love jihad , Mandir Nirman (temple building), Hindu Ekta etc. The form also requires persons registering to provide their phone number and join the online and offline teams. Ten days after registration our team was invited to join Hindu Eco System telegram groups. Main group led to Research group, Writers Group and Graphics group.
On 27th Nov, 2020, 11 days after our attempt to join Hindu Ecosystem and immediately after the telegram group details were sent the twitter trend with #JoinHinduEcosystem was announced by Kapil Mishra. The trend was fabricated through an ‘online toolkit’ which required participants to copy-paste the content to amplify the hashtag.
Mishra, who was at the time also the admin of the telegram groups was actively involved in congratulating the members for amplifying the tweets and reaching amongst top 3 trending in India within 20 minutes. The copy pasted tweets looked somewhat like this:
5th Dec, 2020 an online meeting with members of the telegram group was announced in which HES was introduced and a roadmap was discussed. In the slides past twitter campaigns led by IT Cell were shared.
10th Dec, 2020 twitter trend #NoHumanRights4Hindus against interfaith marriages in India was amplified by the group through an ‘online toolkit’.
A regular trend of twitter amplification using tool kit was seen on 23rd Dec, 2020 #GreatHinduTemples; 27th Dec, 2020 #SubscribePanchjanya; 5th Jan, 2021 #मन्दिर_निर्मन_मेरा_योगदान; 12th Jan, 2021 #योद्धा_सन्यासी_विवेकानंद ; 16th Jan, 2021 #BanTandav; 19th Jan, 2021 #NextYearInKashmir; 24th Jan, 2021 #Respect26January; 5th Feb, 2021 Trend: #AnkitSharmaYaadHai; 7th Feb, 2021 #AnitHinduCaaRiots.
Twitterati was quick to point the hypocrisy in the arrest of Disha Ravi for sharing farmer’s protest online tool-kit and slapped with sedition, while Political actors and public figures like Mishra, continue to engage in similar online influence behaviour.
There is a growing concern over fabricated online narrative and rumours which has led to offline consequences around the world. However, what are the actual influence of these online behaviours in (a) setting the social agenda, (b) setting the political agenda and (c) legitimising/rationalising political and social actions/inactions, are yet to be systematically studied.
The trends are collected by Shivam Maurya who is a data-scientist by the day and social activist by evening. For analysis of the trends and collaboration drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The tweet thread was converted to the blog-post by team TLS.