Abuse and insult, the other side of social media

One of the earliest to take up Twitter, Rajdeep Sardesai switched off for a while on Monday after being heckled by some followers over a comment.

In the wake of protests in Delhi over the rape of a five-year-old, the editor-in-chief of IBN Network had tweeted: "A 4 year old rape victim from MP battling for life in Nagpur hospital. Do I see/hear street protests? Demands for resignations?"

What followed was a torrent of messages, some of which questioned Sardesai's journalistic credentials and called him names. Sardesai decided to take a break saying: "A journalist has only his integrity/credibility. That has been abused on this medium for too long by unknown people. Time to switch off."

Earlier this year, Shah Rukh Khan, too, beat a retreat from Twitter following nonstop vitriolic attacks. "Sad, i read so much judgements, jingoism, religious intolerance on the net & i use to think, this platform wl change narrow mindedness,but no!" he tweeted before going quiet.

Last year, singer-entrepreneur from the south Chinmayi Sripada lodged a complaint with police after being threatened with "rape, killing and assault" by some men on Twitter.

Celebrities such as Sardesai, Khan and Sripada helped give such platforms the popularity they enjoy today. Their fans and detractors were drawn in by the prospect of interacting with them one on one. But soon, the conversations began getting muddied with some followers making irresponsible or hurtful comments, or ridiculing or heckling the celebrity, sometimes getting abusive. "Conversations have become tools to tarnish images and hurt people and vent out one's angst in the most ugly fashion," says a TV celebrity who has often been hammered by so-called fans.

It is not limited to India. British MP George Osbourne, fellow Olympian Rebecca Alington and footballer Fabrice Muamba, and American celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have faced racist, sexist and personal attacks. There have been demands for banning "trolling" or stalking on Twitter by many in France and Germany following a barrage of messages from individuals and groups.

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