A Double-Blind Peer Reviewed Online Journal Published by the Rashtram School of Public Leadership
A Double-Blind Peer Reviewed Online Journal Published by the Rashtram School of Public Leadership

Free Speech and Expression on Social Media: A Study on Challenges Posed to Functioning of Indian Conservative Ecosystem on Twitter

Authored by  Rutvi Dattani and Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar 

 Rutvi Dattani –  Student, M.A. (Political Science), The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat

Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar –  Assistant Professor, Faculty of Journalism & Communication, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat

Volume I, Issue 2 | May 2021

Abstract

The advent of new media technology and social media has revolutionized political communication. Such platforms have been capitalized by political actors not only for electoral victories but also for democratization of the ‘public sphere’ in the truest sense. Citizens can now contribute to public discourse and challenge mainstream narratives. It is against this background that the present research adopts a qualitative, empirical, and interview-based approach to understand the role of Twitter and the challenges posed by the platform to the functioning of the Indian conservative ecosystem. Thirteen in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with conservative Twitter users to explore and understand how political-ideological leanings of the platform affect conservative political, ideological, media and user ecosystems in India. Grounded theory approach was employed to elicit thematic patterns from data and systematic documentation of discourse around social media bias in India was carried out. Users were asked to respond to experiences of ideological engagement on Twitter, benefit of Twitter for conservative users, anti-conservative bias on Twitter — reasons as well as evidences — and solutions to address social media bias. Key challenges identified through the interviews were dominance and control of global tech giants by leftist ideologues, lack of ideological diversity on social media, persistent leadership and structural issues on these platforms that hamper free expression by conservatives, dominance of social media platforms rooted in western values and interests, collusion by India’s own elite media in the process, urgent need for accountability by the big tech and contentions between state regulation of social media vs free speech. Users believe that social media bias is a serious concern that will need redressal through unified efforts of government, users and platforms themselves for ensuring diversity and democracy in the future online political communication landscape. 

Keywords: Conservatives, Ecosystem, Global Tech, Political Communication, Social Media Bias, Twitter, Users

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