Digital hate speech – 27 May 2023

Platforms, however, failed to take prompt and prudent action and the harmful content remains on the platforms

A recent report by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) revealed an increase in hate speech against the transgender community in 2022. Trans-persons have become an easy target for online bullies because the community is marginalised and stigmatised on a national level. Their abusers seldom face repercussions due to inherent biases and stereotypical beliefs among law enforcement officials. In the past year, many trans-persons became victims of violent physical attacks. In August, a transgender activist was removed from the speakers panel of a TEDx event at a school.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was heavily criticised by religious and conservative elements with demands for its revocation. Much of this rhetoric spilled onto social media paving the way for semi-organised online trolling and bullying. Videos of violence against trans-persons are regularly circulated on social media. Trans-activists and rights activists are shamed and ostracised for speaking up about offline and online abuse against the community. The DRF’s helpline team contacted representatives of various social media platforms to request action against the online hate campaigns and explained the context of these.

The platforms, however, failed to take prompt and prudent action and the harmful content remains on the platforms. The orchestrated digital hate against the transgender community last year threatened the community’s overall safety and standing. Provincial governments have undertaken measures to improve trans-persons’ accessibility to education and employment as and increase political participation. Yet the community largely remains vulnerable to digital abuse.

While years of repression and stigmas cannot be dismantled overnight, the onus lies on the government to tackle this problem head-on. Besides sensitising FIA officials and law enforcers on handling cases of online abuse against trans-persons, there is a need for a wider discourse on the need to protect and incorporate the transgender community.

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