How farmers are using social media to back up farmer protests, and counter misinformation
Off late, the farmers' protests across the country have grabbed attention. However, along with that they also have to deal with the spread of rumors and misinformation regarding the protests.
Ranveer Singh, a young farmer also from Ludhiana, has been sharing live visuals of the protests on Facebook and Instagram. “Assi tractor chalande chalando, Twitter chalane lag gye,” he said. “I operated a tractor and now I have to operate Twitter as well,” reported News Laundry.
While the news of hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting against the controversial government reforms at the outskirts of Delhi for nearly two weeks is not unknown to anyone; the saga of social media playing an instrumental role in furthering their agenda remains less discussed.
Although the mainstream media has left no stone unturned in defaming these protests by debunking their narrative right from saying that the protests are instigated by Khalistani separationist groups to spread the news that the opposition party members are gaslighting those protesting; however the farmers have extensively used social media to neutralize these attempts that defame them and their agitation.
“The majority of families are illiterate, but we have taught them to go live on Facebook, click like, and share buttons. On our FB channel, we have 1.13 lakh fans, of which 65,000 were added during the unrest. Whenever someone attempts to defame us, we publish our message in the WhatsApp community of our organizations and farmers begin to go live. The message reaches everyone within minutes,' said Parminder Singh, in an official statement. Singh also runs the Bhartiya Kisan Union's Facebook page (Ekta Ugrahan).
The farmers are thereby not only agitating against these Farm Laws by the Center on ground but also in the virtual world, where they have achieved a considerable amount of success.
Additionally, the farm organizations have formed district and state-level WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages where leaders' speeches, news clippings and stories are constantly uploaded.
The protests and demonstrations began in August in the states of Punjab and Haryana. Months later, when the farmers felt that their pleas are falling on deaf ears is when they decided to march to Delhi in November. Upon reaching the national capital they were met there by a heavy-handed response from the State as the police used tear gas and water cannons against these protestors.
Despite all the efforts from the State to destabilize the movement, the farmers have received tremendous support worldwide; with communities from the U.K. and Canada.
It was owing to lack of attention from the mainstream media initially in August and the excessive misrepresentation later that the farmers had to resort to social media to spread awareness about their cause.
"The online outrage of farmers destroys such malicious strategies if attempts are made to deride our agitation. Lakhs of farmers here and in Punjab are prepared to give more appropriate answers," says Manjit Gharachon, the Tikri border chief of BKU Ugrahan.
“There are also more farmers who master online skills easily. I learned to use WhatsApp and Twitter, and I'm trying to use Facebook right now. It's a perfect way to spread the word and make yourself heard,” added Niranjan Singh Dohla, Secretary of State, New Delhi Border BKU.
As the farmers escalated the demonstrations, arriving at Delhi's borders after braving police batons and barricades the messagr began to speed up on social media making the farmer protests the most discussed and trending topic on social media in recent days.
Some experts say that these farmer-led protests are one of the largest that human history has ever seen. It is also an example of an emerging trend experienced in the famous government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi regime; facing backlash after unequivocally and unilaterally pushing through certain laws.