The Editors Guild of India on Friday called for more accountability of social media platforms for the online abuse of journalists, and said business models that thrive on hate are reprehensible. The guild urged the government and police to act against the abusers and address such complaints on a priority basis.

A statement by the guild condemned the “recent tirade of abuse and intimidation against the media and many senior journalists, especially women, in the wake of their reportage and commentary” ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The statement urged the managements of social media platforms, especially Twitter, to exercise caution and responsibility.

“Some of what is being allowed to pass clearly amounts to sexual abuse or instigation to violence,” the Editors Guild said. “Corporations owning these platforms need reminding themselves that they must not allow unlawful behaviour.”

The guild also said that laws against sexual harassment, intimidation and incitement to violence should be enforced against those who use social media for such purposes.

Abuse of journalists

Several journalists complained of receiving threatening calls and messages, including explicit pictures, on Twitter and WhatsApp in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack. Senior journalist Barkha Dutt had also said she was locked out of her Twitter after she revealed names and phone numbers from which she had received abusive calls. In the past, journalists whose work is seen as being against the government have complained of getting abuse, rape and death threats on social media.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology directed leading telecom operators to take immediate action against 19 users who sent obscene text messages to journalists Ravish Kumar and Abhisar Sharma. The ministry also said the companies must take the onus to act against such communication.

In May 2018, the United Nations’ human rights body had urged India to protect journalist Rana Ayyub who had got death threats after an online hate campaign. Weeks later, Union minister Maneka Gandhi criticised Twitter for failing to remove abusive posts threatening women.