Decodathon: #IndiaTrollPatrol IRL [In Real Life]

Amnesty International India
16 July 2019 5:51 pm

On Saturday, July 6, the Amnesty International India office in Bengaluru was buzzing with excitement for the first ever ‘Decodathon’ event. This event was part of the ‘Troll Patrol India’ initiative, a project where volunteers can contribute to Amnesty’s research on online abuse faced by women politicians in India by analysing tweets for abusive/problematic content – a process called ‘decoding’.

In the five hours that we spent together, we went beyond decoding tweets. We discussed the underlying issues behind online trolling; issues like stereotyping, prejudices and biases. At the end of the day, while it felt good to have worked together as a community, some of the tweets – for their abusive content left a bad aftertaste; a feeling which made us realise that online abuse is a much bigger problem than we all ever imagined.

We began the day with an orientation on the project and in no time our committed volunteers got on with the first decoding session. In fact, many of the decoders enjoyed the process of decoding tweets and found it to be addictive – like a game. They were decoding even during the breaks!

Our three guest speakers from Shakti – Political Power To WomenUngender and Centre for Internet and Society – Access To Knowledge shared insights on the biased narrative on Indian women politicians, the state of intermediary liabilities and related laws.

Even though people were really enjoying decoding tweets, constantly looking at potentially abusive/problematic tweets can be stressful in the long run, so we encouraged people to take adequate breaks. We set up a separate room and called it the ‘Self Care Club’ where decoders could have some space, relax and take a breather.

We ended the event with an open forum where we asked decoders to raise their hands if they agreed to various statements made during the Decodathon and the issue of online abuse. Interestingly, when we asked them: “Have you or someone you know experienced online abuse?” only half of the decoders raised their hand but when we proposed “social media platforms like twitter need to more to address online abuse” everyone raised their hands.

One of the participants said: “Even though I’ve never faced online abuse, this activity (decoding) made me see first-hand just how common sexist insults and statements towards women are.”

For the past one month, I have been a Community Management Intern, moderating the discussion forum for the project where I answer queries and engage online volunteers every day.

The ‘Decodathon’ event was a surreal experience for me where I saw the online discussion being transposed into reality in front of me.

By Madhulika Handoo. Madhulika is currently interning at Amnesty India under the Troll Patrol India project.