YouTube Hatemongers Are India’s New Stars

YouTube Hatemongers Are India’s New Stars

  • Misogynistic, nationalistic rants get creators rewards—and bans—on social media.

India has banned TikTok, along with a spate of other Chinese apps. But its social media problems are homegrown—and go far beyond any one program. The country, with more than 500 million active Internet users, is the largest single market for popular applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook.  The country has already witnessed dozens of horrific lynchings, many of them occurring due to rumors spread on social media. Facebook is facing a public-relations crisis thanks to turning a blind eye to hate speech.  Now a new genre of video rants threatens to stoke further hate and anger.

In July, four Indian YouTubers were arrested for threatening to violently rape a female comedian, Agrima Joshua, after she made fun of the supporters of a proposed $408 million statue of a 17th-century Indian warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji. Joshua’s year-old routine made her a target for nationalists and prompted threats of charges that forced her to apologize.

The arrests shone light on a new genre of social media content: selfie videos shot by nationalistic social media influencers, usually young men, often in their cars, delivering rants laced with expletives and violent threats. They have followings ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions, and a list of targets that ranges from influencers in Pakistan to rival right-wingers to critics of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But their favorite targets are women, and their abuse-filled rants are full of threats of harassment and sexual violence.