A look at the puppeteers behind India’s social media mobs.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014 on the back of one of the most successful political campaigns in the country’s history. In I am Troll, journalist Swati Chaturvedi lifts the lid on the social media operation that helped him succeed.
From the outset the author makes clear that this book is personal. Having received innumerable vile tweets from trolls, she set out to find out what, or rather who compels them to be so vicious.
What she finds is a highly organised, centrally-controlled and incredibly disciplined social media operation at the heart of the BJP, India’s governing political party. With orders distributed using WhatsApp, the party’s social media cell plans its activity meticulously. It pre-defines hashtags, explicitly states what should be tweeted and when. Orders are sent to specific WhatsApp groups representing different demographics (women, professionals, etc.).
This structure would be hugely admirable if the alleged outcomes weren’t so horrendous.
This structure would be hugely admirable if the alleged outcomes weren’t so horrendous. When recounting interviews with some of those involved, the bigotry driving the trolling makes for uneasy reading. It is equally uneasy to read the case studies of companies and individuals targeted for abuse and the commercial and human costs of this online aggression.
The book skips along at a frenetic pace, which is no doubt down to its author’s newspaper background. However, in parts the narrative is disjointed. It feels more like a firsthand account retold over coffee, sort of a meandering stream of consciousness. More aggressive editing would produce a more coherent and reader-friendly volume.
This shouldn’t discourage you from reading this book. It’s short, only 134 pages. You only need invest a couple of hours and in that time its strong and bold author will open your eyes and drop your jaw as she takes you into the world of the internet troll.