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Monday, September 26, 2022

Countering Hinduphobia on Reddit

Reddit is a social media platform divided downstream into millions of communities (subreddits). Its front-page comprises of most upvoted (liked) posts from these communities. Reddit admins hardly interfere in the affairs of subreddits, unless the content (posts and comments) is severely breaking the Reddit wide rules which in nutshell are very basic and neutral from political point of view.

Reddit rightly prides itself for its apolitical user generated content, which is honestly great and unique as compared to other SM platforms. However, political discussions on Reddit continue to be garbage, heavily leaning from left wing to extreme left wing.

Many Bharatiyas keep complaining on other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

“I don’t get how Reddit works?”

“Reddit banned me without any reason. It sucks.”

Some political content of Reddit spills over to other social media (SM) platforms and people are amused by the level of vileness, bigotry and misinformation against Bharat and Hindus. Instances like these have made those who are not regular on Reddit, wonder whether Reddit as a platform is anti-Bharat or anti-Hindu. As a regular Reddit user, I will try to answer.

While the daily affairs of Reddit as a website and SM bigwig are handled by Reddit Admins, a Subreddit can be created and nurtured by any ordinary Reddit user, called “moderator” of that subreddit. Many times users get confused between Admins and Moderators: Admins are Reddit employees while Moderators are ordinary users volunteering to moderate Reddit Communities with no business affiliation to Reddit. It is up to Moderators of a subreddit to decide how and in which direction they want to grow their subreddit.

For Example – description of one of the subreddits /r/IndiaNews says- “The Official Indian News Subreddit for Indians”. But the subreddit also accepts memes, self posts, non-news content, etc. because the moderators of the subreddit allow it. This is not controlled by Reddit’s Administrators who give moderators freedom to define their subredits. Similarly, you would expect /r/trees to be all about plant kingdom. Anyways this is how it works.

Many platforms intended to run based on user moderation have not done well. But extensive freedom given to Moderators to curate a subreddit in terms of content is a unique feature of Reddit. This has its flipside especially when it comes to political opinions; this becomes a hindrance to democratic expression of views in Reddit.

This issue has become severe in several Bharat related subreddits in past 6 years. Group dynamics of a moderator team can create wonders and can also cause disasters. In case of Bharat related subreddits, the latter is true for older communities run by a cabal. Individually the moderators of such toxic communities – who take out time from their daily lives to manage communities – must be great persons. After all political opinions do not define a person completely and you can find many traits of someone’s personality admirable even if you do not agree with them politically.

But in moderator groups, some not so sane voices become prominent by the virtue of more active moderation work, aggressive pushing of agenda and an undeclared hierarchy structure within the team. At the same time, moderators start adding like-minded individuals too as new moderators to continue with the same propaganda.

/r/India met the same fate, the biggest community for Bharatiyas in Reddit, due to “India” being the default name of the community for Bharatiyas and the subreddit being the oldest in India-verse of Reddit.

Initially /r/India used to be a decent platform hosting diverse if not great opinions on a wide range of topics. There used to be a vocal minority which had issues with Hindus, Bharat and Right Wing politics, but it was a minority. This lasted till 2013. However, as the elections bells of 2014 rang, censorship turned dire. Stricter rules were made against “hate speech”, “trolling” and “abuse” which initially seemed to be implemented without any political bias but as the results of 2014 polls became clearer, meltdown of some moderators became more intense.

Users with right wing political views were being banned more and more indiscriminately. Banned users were mocked when they reached out for explanations. Someone even tried to mock PM Modi with a crass masturbation joke on Twitter using the handle of /r/India. Appeals to make moderation politically neutral or diversifying the moderation team with sensible right leaning moderators for the sake of balance were ignored.

At the same time smaller subreddits, which were trying to provide a platform with relaxed rules and better political discourse were targeted and bullied in a coordinated campaign, like mocking these subs on Twitter for smaller user base, trying to mislead and spam the AMA (Ask Me Anything) guests of smaller subs, using different user ids (alts) to troll in smaller subs and harass the moderators of those subs.

After some time, the objective of these left leaning moderators shifted from “containing hate speech and abuse” to providing “safe space” for some specific ideologies. Such moderators openly abused users and mocked them by saying “They do not want Chaddis, Sanghis, Bhakts etc.” In an infamous incident, one such moderator lamented openly that not enough Sanghis were genocided during 1947. Basically all gloves were off now, all intentions unmasked.

The demography of such “Indian” communities changed rapidly. Even in the beginning, the community was filled with ultra-leftist younglings of upper/ upper-middle class of urban Bharat and NRIs. As an average Bharatiya was shunned, communities started attracting Pakistanis, Pakistanis “acting” as self-hating Bharatiya, and individuals who advocated for Jehadist ideology much like those we saw in their full glory during JNU/ AMU fracas. Wishing death upon Bharat’s PM Modi, Amit Shah, and other BJP leaders became norm of the day.

Wikipedia was not the first platform to shadow ban OpIndia. It was done by /r/India when OpIndia was in its nascent stage. This strategy of pushing the nationalists to the corner and then trying to shut them from expressing views is common but somehow few subreddits have resisted. /r/Indianews instead banned several anti-Bharat web portals and fake news factories a few months back.

Nationalist and RW ideology has struck a chord with the common Bharatiyas. Naturally the base of such users with pro RW ideology is humongous and a few indeed indulge in abuse and break rules. But convenient for Leftists, few bad examples were made stereotype for all RW Bharatiya users in Reddit.

This resonated with much of the non-Bharatiya Reddit user base with simplistic political understanding. It is very easy to paint a Bharatiya nationalist as a Nazi. Incidents in west have also not helped much. But Burhan Wani of Kashmir is not George Floyd of Minneapolis. White Nationalists do not have any history of persecution in their own land like Bharatiyas. They also do not have any diversity or complexity in their countries’ social structure.

Still the Neo Nazi White Supremacists and proud, non-self hating Bharatiyas are grouped together by Leftist Reddit users who have appropriated control of major political subreddits. And so Reddit has transformed into a den of grand leftist delusions. All of their favorite political candidates across the globe in recent years have lost badly, Sanders, Hillary or Corbyn while the candidates whom they hate have won – Shinzo Abe, Netanyahu, Boris Johnson and at last but not least Trump. It should be noted that Bharat’s PM Modi remains hugely popular even on Reddit, just not in heavily censored leftist subreddits.

As such, sensible discussions about Bharat on Reddit is almost impossible in /r/India (ironically) and in other major subreddits. For example, following types of posts may get you instantly banned in many subreddits – pointing out that (even after factoring for low reporting) rape per capita in Bharat is way lower than western countries, Kashmir issue is now associated with radical Islamic ideology and not a freedom fight, recent Delhi riots were started by Muslims and were not anti-Muslim pogroms etc.

At the same time, copy paste on rape, Kashmir issue, “lynching” of Muslims are routinely circulated by a specific group of users who make multiple accounts to spread propaganda. Many of them are Pakistani. The discussion on Bharat related topics has become so predictable that it is pointless to look into them further. TLDR will be – “India Bad, Mudi bad, Indian rapists, I want to emigrate.”

There was an infamous incident, during the famous social experiment by Reddit- “Place” which began on April Fools’ Day in 2017. “Place” was a collaborative pixel art project in which Reddit users simultaneously competed to create different shapes and patterns on 1000×1000 pixel square.

Each subreddit’s user base united in drawing their representative image: LGBT flags, national flags, memes, and logos. Initially /r/india moderators promoted a script to draw the Indian national flag, but surreptitiously slipped in code that also drew a Pakistan flag without telling this to users of /r/India.

This infuriated the Bharatiya users after they found out Bharatiya and Pakistani flags together overnight without their knowledge. In retaliation, Bharatiya users collaborated in a separate subreddit /r/bakchodi to obliterate Pakistani flag, replacing it with the flag of Shiv Sena.

Watch this video from 3:10 to understand –  

So what can be done about /r/India and the rabid hate against Bharat and Hindus in Reddit? Many times, frustrated Bharatiya users chase users or moderators who spread anti-Bharat propaganda, looking for answers. Most such bharatiyas get tagged as harassers and trolls. Don’t do that. Some have thought about legal action. But Reddit does not work like Twitter or Facebook.

Despite all the focus on political drama on social media, Reddit has managed to ensure the safety of its users and their data from the government agencies, for which Reddit should be appreciated. The removals due to legal reasons are rare. For example, the only removal from Reddit due to legal reasons in India-verse was done last year, when one of the posts in /r/Indianews exposed the links between an Urban Naxal currently in custody with spouse of one of the prominent HC judges. 

Instead of trolling, one should make their voice stronger in Reddit through legitimate means. If some communities have suppressed your views and have tried to shut one down, one should not feel lost. There is no point in having lengthy political discussions with left wing trolls and Bharat haters. Instead it is advisable to report them to moderators and admins for their hate speech against Bharat. It takes time but it works.

At the same time several groups of Redditors have stood up for Bharat and Bharatiyas. They decided to challenge the status quo and have succeeded. Despite the best efforts of groups who want to obliterate the pro-Bharatiya and Hindu voices in Reddit, alternatives of /r/India have thrived and growing exponentially. Some of them are –

/r/IndiaNews – The oldest alternative sub, which has been appreciated by almost everyone since its inception for balanced and sensible moderation while taking a hard pro Bharat stance on Bharat related topics on Reddit. It has also been the first subreddit to seamlessly regularize AMA sessions in India-verse of Reddit.

/r/IndiaSpeaks – A sub reddit which has very efficiently grown as /r/India alternative in past years. The subreddit can boast of being best possible platform for political and general discussion currently as it has attracted both right wing and left wing users enabling balanced discussions.

/r/Chodi – A potent powerhouse of Virat memes and counter culture within the Reddit. Sub Reddit has shown explosive growth within few months and is now serving as growth engine for Dharmic and patriotic content within Reddit.

/r/IndiaDiscussion – This sub reddit tracks all the drama related to India-verse and serves as a very good repository chronicling all the cases of mod powers abuse and censorship in Reddit by moderators.

Everyone should join these Subreddits and contribute actively.

-by Twitter users @Ranjan_zeh and @news_jockey.

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