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6 Ways You Can Fight Online Hate Without Becoming A Troll

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Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

“Go to Porkistan, you bloody traitor.”
“I’d like to see how much far you can open this mouth in real life, hope you’re a screamer.”

Imagine reading this first thing in the morning.

The internet, which is an intrinsic part of our lives, is becoming more of a minefield. Anyone who dares to have an opinion knows the inevitability that is, ‘cyberbullies’ or ‘trolls’. God forbid if you are an independent woman. Rape threats on the house, Madame!

In India, online hate lies in a complex nexus between freedom of expression of diversities and individual integrities. It isn’t easy to deal with people who feel it’s allright to send photos of mutilated female corpses to a woman in order to curb her views. As if that burnt body is supposed to ‘be a lesson’.

Before defining harassment laws, it is imperative to understand the difference between a disgruntled person expressing their own dissent, and an abuser. While the former can be reasoned with in most cases, it’s the latter who creates problems, who digs up your former activities and shows them without context so as to humiliate and control you.

Here are a few ways you can deal with such abusers, without resorting to further abusive behaviour:

Building Diverse And Stronger Technical Tools

There are plugins, where whenever any potential hate speech is generated, the user gets a chance to think over the implications and possibly retract it. Softwares such as Botivist, that turns people into online activists is a step in the right direction. Bots like the one Twitter uses is also helpful. Yet, technology has no use if the force behind it is rife with human bias. If used responsibly, technology can prove beneficial in fostering good online behaviour.

Getting A Better Understanding Of The Reason People Troll

It is true that there are people who are vindictive in nature, and show it at every chance possible. But it’s equally true that people are not born haters. Recent researches show the complex link between trolling, the surrounding hostility in the environment and the natural moods of the person. Also trolling due to peer pressure is another phenomenon, although a bit hard to digest. Understanding the personalities and circumstances might be an effective way to adjust potentially triggering content and identifying the target group of abusers.

Understanding The Importance Of Counter-Narratives

Counter-narratives are usually seen as too much work. Ignorance gives haters power, attention gives them validation. Nevertheless, underlying issues need to be addressed. Arm yourself with verifiable facts. Don’t be deterred by counter-claims. Engage in a healthy discussion with the other members without disrupting the previous conversation. People are much more willing to listen to the voice of reason, but outside of conflict. This way you can turn the tables on them without batting an eyelid.

Building A Strong Online Support Community

There is certainly more strength in numbers. Create a diverse coalition of allies. Civic groups, law enforcement, psychologists, people who’re well versed in social and political issues. Make a safe space for victims of hate. It helps in isolating the haters who’re actually less in numbers but seem more because of the absence of effective counter-hate strategies. Help empower people and create a community of respectful people with diverse ideologies. Also, people who want to quit abuse need to be helped empathetically, too.

Promoting Digital Information Literacy

Development of technical skills to use digital technology safely and awareness about the rights on the internet is a good place to start, considering people still don’t know how to use these things effectively. Hence they are more susceptible to online abuse. Developing the ability to find and analyse specific rhetorics and recognising their social and political influence is important too. Creating easily accessible sources in major languages will go a long way in combating the problem.

Reporting Harassment And The Role Of Authorities

In common parlance, online harassment is not treated at par with its offline counterpart. You need to call out people and organisations on their disgusting behaviour and report them. Such bodies need to be made who can deal with complaints without coming across as patronising. We need to help create an archive of hate material on the internet and then eliminate it. Law agencies should work in partnership with ethical bodies to have a better handle on things. Don’t let anyone get away with violating your integrity without suffering their comeuppances.

Don’t listen to people who say you need to grow a pair or stop being a sensitive snowflake. Online hate is no trifling matter and nothing that is a price of visibility on the net. Don’t let haters get to you. Continue doing what you do best and what you believe in. That’s one of the best ways to get back to all those trolls like a boss.

Kill them with kindness, not with hate.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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