The Viral Fever, For All The Wrong Reasons

Posted by Akshat
March 15, 2017

Presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused to a criminal trial, and it is also regarded as an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11. A Medium post dated the 12th of March, 2017 posted under the alias “Indian Fowler” ignited a raging debate on social media with many questioning safety of women at workplace. Today, as I write this, I am not ready to be drilled by the dismissal that everything I read on social media must always be true.

In 72 hours, the controversy around a woman’s open letter accusing The Viral Fever’s CEO Arunabh Kumar of molestation has blown up. Posted anonymously on medium.com under the title ‘The Indian Uber- That is TVF’, the lady wrote the founder of the online content company allegedly molested her.

I believe (emphasis added) all the allegations made against TVF and its team in the article are categorically false, baseless and unverified. Let us go step by step on this.

Just a day before yesterday, a friend of mine came across this news on Facebook. Within seconds, he messaged me. The link he sent me to read “Sexual harassment charges against TVF founder show rape culture is the real viral fever”. An active follower of TVF and social issues, I was quick to open the link he sent me.

The rise of the era of the Internet has precipitated the development of wire-based communication platforms. With digital platforms growing faster than ever, it raises a serious question. Today, I think worse than ever, social media has been instrumental in persuading the public and influencing opinions. Shaping public’s opinion via social media has become more achievable and, yet, more uncontrollable.

The TVF team presumably, was baffled. In response, a reply had to be formulated. The next day, their an official statement as a reply followed:

To which, public response followed:

Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies).

This principle states that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty. The above-stated principle stands for the mentioned scenario, where the burden of proof is on “The Indian Fowler” (the one who declared), and not presumably the one who denied “Anurabh Kumar”.

What’s the perfect way to get people to read your articles? It’s to write something that other people share on Facebook, on Twitter, via email, wherever. That’s why those big icons are there on every post and video you see. It turns out that the number 1 predictor of a news making the New York Times Most E-Mailed List is how it strikes an emotional chord. Not that it is the only factor that works out; basically, any extreme feeling does – really funny, really arousing, really touching, really anxious, really afraid, Because, think about it: When was the last time you read an article and thought, “Oh OK,” and then proceeded to tell everyone in your life about it?

Women being harassed at workplaces are not a matter of wit in any way. But at the same point in time, accusing an individual of sexual harassment without proof on social media isn’t either. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. We look at Section 499 of the Indian Constitution, which states “Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.”

The above-mentioned arguments call for a clarification of the misconception and correct the rather casual interpretation of the Medium article, not because TVF is the money-minting-bigger-giant here, but because these claims come from an author who fails to disclose her identity, leading to question of authenticity.

The readers aren’t to blame here. They receive their information – framed, edited, manipulated as it is – through the media. First and foremost it is the job of the author to channel that information and make it relevant and if they are failing to do so they need to be held to account. The newspapers and her sister media are adept in setting fire to the smallest bit of fuel they find. And in an already overflowing oil mine, they are wrecking havoc. Both parties suffer. I admit. It pains me to be part of such a time. But we must stay rational. Anurabh Kumar may or may not have committed the acts he has been accused of, but users on networking giants like Facebook and Twitter have declared Anurabh Kumar guilty and boycotted his shows. When you read something online, please verify sources before jumping to conclusions and declaring an innocent guilty.

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