MisDisMal-Information #4 – This Week In Information Disorder Letter

This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com

Of Turfwars, Memes and Book(ing) Cases, The Trenches and lots of Bee-tee-dubs

What is this? This newsletter aims to track information disorder largely from an Indian perspective. It will also look at some global campaigns and research
What this is not? A fact-check newsletter. There are organisations like Altnews, Boomlive etc who already do some great work. It may feature some of their fact-checks periodically

Welcome to Edition #4 of MisDisMal-Information.

Youtubers v/s Tiktokers and the usual discourse

I must admit that I am probably too old to understand some of this, so I won’t go into the why’s or comment on the content. The gist of it is that a certain Youtuber roasted a TikToker (yes, these are words now, I checked) just as we were getting into the 2nd week of May. Somewhere between this roast and 9th May, it turned into a call to ban TikTok in India. So much so that it was actually trending on Twitter. When I looked into this trend on Twitter.com, I fully expected to find terms like ‘cringe’ or perhaps some casteist tweets in there. Why? Read this piece by Jyoti Yadav in theprint. But when I looked it up, aside from content directly related to this Youtube-TikTok turfwar/feud, I also came across what looked like a decent amount of anti-China and Islamophobic content. Intrigued, I analysed about 50K tweets from this period.

It was interesting to see that nearly 1/3rd of the tweets came from accounts created in the last few months. The word ‘cringe’ was used in only 0.1% of the tweets, though. However, 3.5% of the tweets contained references to religiously loaded terms like hindu, muslim, jihad, lovejihad, religion, culture etc. And another 3.5% had references to china/chinese, revenge, virus, some statements incorrectly attributed to tiktok’s founder etc. Now, I am deliberately not repeating/reposting any of that content here because I do not want to amplify it. But the fact that 7% of the tweets were so charged, is surprising to me. In my mind, that number is simultaneously higher and lower than I expected.

Why? Let me explain:

  • High, because, this was largely a face-off between two types of content creators/platforms (on a 3rd platform, no less). That such rhetoric made its way in, just goes to show how the same event can drive many different narratives. I plan to see if this emerges as a pattern of sorts as I analyse more events on twitter.
  • Low, because based on where I saw some of this content positioned on search results on twitter.com, I actually went into the analysis expecting to find easily more than 15-20% of such content. Of course, since my search was largely textual, I could have missed images/videos that drove similar narratives without the accompanying text.

Go here for the complete edition