2016 US ELECTION AND ‘SONAM GUPTA BEWAFA HAI’ – FACEBOOK’S DOUBLE STANDARDS

The article’s Hindi version appeared on iChowk.

Suddenly ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ has started spilling its content from the margins of social media and has started trending on media and, therefore, is subsequently finding increasing number of takers. People and other platforms are writing about it and it is becoming a public sphere chatter. Demonetization jokes on these Facebook pages have given it an added shot.

And we should be worried about it. Its growing number of likes should not mislead us that it is becoming popular. Rather we should go by the version that it is getting more and more notoriety with each passing day. For me, it is vitriolic face of social media (and Facebook). Stories are emerging that how different avatars of this ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ Facebook pages are creating embarrassing and harassing situations for girls with the same name. They are being targeted by social media trolls and for many of them it has gone beyond the limit to ignore it.

Facebook should take cognizance here and should block such pages immediately. But will Facebook do so – in a market like India where the government and its regulatory agencies either don’t notice such content or simply ignore them?

It is well established that many multinational corporations adopt double standards for developed and developing markets. Products of similar brands will have superior specifications in a developed market like America while it will have many shortcomings, even defying the standard benchmarking, when it comes to developing markets like India – whether it was the Coca Cola and Pepsi controversy where their products were found to high levels of pesticides or the recent case of Maggi ban for not following the norms. Such cases happen even if India is a big market for all these companies. Insensitive Double standards!

It seems this holds true for Facebook as well. Facebook’s second largest user base is India where its annual growth rate is faster than the US, its largest market (but stagnating) market, as well as than the global average. So, the whole game here is about adding more and more users. That is the hard currency for social media sites – users and traffic – and content like ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ helps in that.

Even if it is in bad taste.

But it is the Facebook content only that is giving sleepless nights to Facebook founder and promoter Mark Zuckerberg who is busy clarifying to the whole America these days that the content on Facebook is genuine and even if some fake content is there, it is less than 1%.

According to a piece in the New York Times, 44% Americans get their daily dose of news through Facebook. That means a lot of traffic and (the eyeballs that come with it).

Now the allegations are being levelled against Facebook that many fake news reports were shared on Facebook that were, in turn, shared millions of times (reaching to millions of people/voters) and helped prepare an atmosphere in favour of Donald Trump, putting Hillary Clinton in a negative light.

There were fake reports like Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump or the FBI officer under cloud for leaking Hillary Clinton’s emails was found dead or Hollywood’s star and a respectable name Denzel Washington had praised Donald Trump. These all and many other such reports were totally fake but given the reach of Facebook, it would have certainly helped Donald Trump, even if Mark Zuckerberg is on a drive to rebut such claims.

So, on one side, there is America where the founder himself has to come forward to defend Facebook – whereas in India, its second largest market – where there is fake content, where there is unethical extensions like ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’, where there are fake and anonymous accounts – and where these are spreading fast – there is no one to take care of it – neither in Facebook – nor in our society.

On Monday (November 14), in the aftermath of the raging controversy in the US, Facebook decided to include ‘fake news’ in the banned category on its advertising platforms. But what about the fake content that lies scattered here and there on Facebook – waiting for its ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ moment? Humour and satire are the essential parts of our social ecosystems but obscenity and tawdriness can never be accepted in their name.

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT DONALD TRUMP’S FIRST TWEETS SINCE NOV 9 TELL US!

Since November 9, when Republican Donald Trump started tweeting (@realDonaldTrump) again after his landslide (and stunning) victory in the US Presidential polls defeating the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with a wide margin of the electoral college vote (even if Hillary Clinton emerged as the winner of the popular vote), he has tweeted 14 times.

And if we see into these tweets – they tell us how the next phase is going to be in the life of the US President Elect Donald Trump – till January 20 next year when Donald Trump will be sworn in.

And it doesn’t look good.

His first and second tweets (since November 9) were normal – saying ‘happy 241st birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps!’ and – and how his first meeting with Obamas was fantastic.

But his third and fourth tweets were aimed at media and the protests raging against him.

In one tweet, he says them professional protesters and blames media of inciting them. And he doesn’t look to do some course correction in the next tweet when he refers to them as a ‘small group of protesters’. Yes, he says that they (the protesters) have passion for their great country and they (including Trump) will come together but he clearly tries to show them as marginal players while we all know the protesters are not just a ‘small group’. Spontaneous anti-Trump protests have broken out in many US states and even in other countries.

His fifth and sixth tweet since November 9 (November 10 is a no tweet day) are again normal business like – about his team in the government and expressing gratitude on the Veterans Day.

His only tweet on November 12 is again aimed at normalizing an abnormal situation – a divided US society – saying ‘we will unite and we will win, win, win!’ That attitude is a must for him and he needs to practice it honestly if he, indeed, has to see a united America – because the truth is – his election has bitterly divided the US.

And today it looks like about visiting the old foes (and old values again).

Three of his seven tweets today (so far) are about NY Times – that how the publication ‘is losing thousands of subscribers because of its very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the “Trump phenomena”- that ‘NY Times sent a letter to their subscribers apologizing for their BAD coverage of me. I wonder if it will change – doubt it?’ – and that ‘NY Times states today that DJT believes “more countries should acquire nuclear weapons.” How dishonest are they. I never said this!’

These three tweets and the earlier one blaming media for inciting anti-Trump protests show we should rule out a near future thaw – given the way Trump’s campaign has been – he didn’t believe in climate crisis; he believed in racial domination; he despised immigrants; he liked dictators like Vladimir Putin; he spoke against Muslims; he promoted populism at the cost of logic like his liberal nuclear doctrine or his anti-outsourcing rant and many more – all ingredients to make any media anti-Trump if Trump doesn’t work to change that.

The signals so far have been mixed.

Though before this hour, he had not said anything outrageous after winning the polls – like he used to do every other day during the campaign phase – and has indicated a ‘softened’ approach to Obamacare, something that he had said he would disband – he just sounded absurd again when he said in an interview that he would soon ‘deport 3 million immigrants’ and the US-Mexican border will be ‘partly fenced’.

These tweets indicate, together with his policy decisions like these, tell us that the days ahead are going to be tumultuous in the US.

If Trump would continue with his absurd but populist ultra-nationalist agenda of expelling immigrants (and fencing borders and so on), he will rightly be questioned by media and it will certainly propel the anti-Trump protesters who are quite a sizeable chunk (and are growing) to do more against the Republican President.

His other four tweets of the day are about thanking people and announcing his upcoming TV interaction.

©SantoshChaubey

DISTURBING SIGNALS FROM 2016 US ELECTION

Glass ceiling: The world’s most successful democracy was closest to undo one of its historical wrongs – by electing its first female president – but the glass ceiling remained intact on this front – and what is ironical is that the US has elected a president who has had a life of making misogynistic and sexist remarks. Now the US will have to wait for at least another four years if it has to correct that ‘historical social anomaly’.

A divided nation: The world had never seen society in the US so divided, at least in decades, since the days of segregation and counterculture. Okay, there is always this division – a group chooses this, the other one goes for that – but this all is at an electoral level. What is happening in the US after Donald Trump’s victory is suggestive of deep fissures in the US society. There have been violent protests in many states and though its over 24 hours, they are only going up.

No Obama mention: Though Donald Trump delivered a graceful victory speech beginning it with the words of thanks for Hillary Clinton who had called him to accept the poll outcome, he didn’t mention Barack Obama even once – like some words for his predecessor who led his country for eight years before him. Though Obama and Trump have had differences and Barack Obama candidly accept it, he did call Donald Trump to congratulate him immediately after the final results came in. And we all know, going by the life lived by Obama and Trump so far, Obama is a towering person compared to Trump.

A growing chasm with more than ever have-nots in the US: It is being said that the class who felt left out by the political elite of the US who rules the power corridors of Washington – the blue collar workers, people of small town and rural America who still feel the pain to manage their lives and families after the 2008 global economic crisis went en masse to elect Trump – even registered Democrats – even those who had voted for Obama in the previous two presidential polls. This poll outcome shows that all is not well and the US is no more that model of society that the world looked up to. Okay, there are other reasons and groups who have voted for Trump as well but a Trump victory propelled by have-nots of America (by American standards) tells us that disparity is rapidly growing there.

A fear psychosis that is pushing people to check immigration options to other countries: There are plenty of reports that many in the US are scramming to check immigration websites of countries like Canada or New Zealand.

The class wars: The fact that Donald Trump won even if he openly talked against Muslims and immigrants and was seen as a divisive figure when it came to racial discrimination tells us that the US society is somewhere breaking down and it is needed to be healed immediately. What Trump did may be now a past from his campaign rhetoric but we should not forget that there were plenty of people in the US who saw an appealing person in Trump because of this rhetoric only. Also worrying is the pieces of analysis which say that this Trump victory is because Trump’s predecessor Obama was a black American in a country of predominantly white people. The growing incidents of attacks on black Americans support it. And when it comes to Hillary Clinton, we should not forget that before being anyone else, she was seen as a Democrat of the Washington circle who once worked with Barack Obama.

Hillary is still the popular choice: Now, in 2012, Donald Trump had tweeted to let the world know that how much he despised the electoral college. He had said, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Now it is this electoral college only that has given him the US presidency because Hillary Clinton is the winner of the popular vote. Going by a latest Forbes report, Hillary has got 59,926,386 popular votes, more than Trump’s 59,698,506 votes. That may not be much but statisically it places her on a high pedestal.

Disturbing! Isn’t it? Let’s hope that these signals get the required correctional measures (and the healing) soon.

©SantoshChaubey