THE BANNING OF Kangana Ranaut permanently from Twitter hinges on one simple question—does a person have the right to be a conspiracy theorist? Social media companies don’t think so. They have made it clear in the US with similar bans of personalities like Alex Jones. And yet, what exactly is wrong in being a conspiracy theorist? Their views are distasteful to half the politically opinionated population. A few years ago when Ranaut used to make similar outlandish statements that were not political, she became a feminist icon. It is when she took sides in politics that the voice became ‘dangerous’. But the mind hadn’t changed, it just took an added dimension.
Twitter is a little like god in the political universe. It gives birth, identity and power to fringe players and then sets out to correct it through a lopsided justice that few can comprehend. And it is not predictable, sacrificing all sorts of heads at its altar. Some years back, Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde got thrown out of the platform for no offence at all. When he made a re-entry using another handle, that too was banned. He is known to be against the Government while Ranaut is rabidly for it, taking to Hindutva like the new convert who has finally found meaning and community. Her ban follows a tweet on the Bengal violence in which she asked Narendra Modi to take his “virat roop” of the early 2000s, alluding to the Gujarat riots. Twitter thinks it is a call for violence, but their explanation is an exercise that would make any lawyer proud. It told NDTV: ‘As explained in our abusive behaviour policy, you may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behaviour an attempt to harass, intimidate or silence someone else’s voice.’
Can Ranaut’s tweet fit that category? It could, or could not. It entirely depends on how Twitter chooses to interpret it. Unless you are god and can see the future, it is hard to see how a tweet like that, even if encouraging violence, will lead to violence. Modi, certainly, does not decide what to do based on Ranaut’s tweets. Those who are happy about Ranaut’s ban will become just as agitated tomorrow when someone like Hegde is removed. To put your trust in Twitter in one instance is to give it legitimacy for all the bans it does. It will run now against the Government’s new regulations which specify that people must be informed beforehand about such suspensions and given the option of appeal. And you can be sure that the Government will try to armtwist Twitter over Ranaut. This is not going to happen when someone else, who is from the opposition camp, is pulled up arbitrarily. You want a better social media ecosystem, then the best option is to take away Twitter’s legitimacy to decide what is good and bad. And to develop a thicker skin while reading the tweets of conspiracy theorists.