Troll travails thanks to Twitter

12 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


Warren Buffett’s research has shown that while people may no longer read mainline newspapers, they are still loyal to their local community papers. Or at least that’s why Hathaway has invested in any number of community papers in the US but will not put money into the mainstream media. The same research also shows that people who do not buy mainline papers will read them online but not if they have to pay.


This is a lesson about the internet that the traditional media in the west especially has yet to understand. In India, newspapers are free online but even they have irksome proceedings – like having to register to read the e-paper format like The Hindu. Others like Mail Today only have an e-paper format and no website which is also annoying.


The freedom of the internet is what makes it appealing – even if no more than 200 people gathered to protest internet curbs – and this includes freedom from opening the wallet.


The Huffington Post and Daily Beast both every effectively use social media like twitter and Facebook to push their stories – the Indian media is not quite so effective. Although Firstpost (web) and Mid-Day (paper) are not too bad and Firstpost also has the advantage of a fan base which retweets.


The Times, London is a downer because it requires a one pound payment to open any story and the question is not of the amount so much as the procedure. This also stops The Times from reaching a wider audience as its stories cannot get picked up websites which collate news of a certain kind or allow readers to pass interesting articles along.


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Until someone invents something better, Twitter remains the best disseminator of news as it happens. There are disadvantages, as passionately delineated by Namita Bhandare in the Hindustan Times ( Bhandare’s problem is mainly to do with the viciousness of internet trolls and she has clearly suffered. But of course it could be argued that the only reason that these “trolls” are so annoying/frightening is because of the enormous access that the internet provides. These “trolls” exist in real life also but we may not meet them that often. The internet cannot invent new ways of human behaviour.


This response to Bhandare’s article by someone who calls himself a “troll” (aah, irony thou are not dead in India yet) is also illuminating


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From my personal experience as a columnist for many years I can safely say that people will insult you if they want via any medium of communication open to them. Twitter is just one more. I for one have got death threats, legal notices envelopes filled with talcum powder pretending to be anthrax and plenty of questions raised about the sexual habits of my ancestors and in the old days, all these came via the post office. So what, say I?


Years of reading letters to the editor (in practically every publication I have been part of) has at least made me realise that people are dying to be heard and deeply resentful when their voices are blocked – or when they perceive it as such. Twitter gives them such a wonderful platform to vent and get rid off their frustrations. Worse than any “troll” remains the famous Mumbai postcard writer with the initials ‘MSK’ whose imagination and capacity for personal insults was prodigious. I believe he is no more and his loss is deeply felt. These are the people who make becoming a journalist worthwhile.


Yes, there are offensive people on Twitter but one can either not encourage them or just shut them off!


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