When Scams Unfold on Social Media: The Editor Quits, Lalit Modi drowns himself, Vadra shows disrespect

social media scams

Probably for the first time in the history of journalism, the chief editor of a leading newspaper of India decided to announce his resignation on Twitter. On Monday, Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor in Chief of The Hindu, tweeted:

An announcement of change in the top management and editorial positions of The Hindu followed next. This chapter has reiterated the impact and importance of social media, especially Twitter, even for an English daily that sells over 20 million copies every day.

The resignation of Mr Varadarajan reminds us of the most interesting news of the decade, which broke on social media – that of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

It is difficult to deny that controversies, scandals and news are unfolding at an unprecedented pace on social media in India, a phenomenon which, for the West, is a thing of the past. In fact, Lalit Modi, the architect of the Indian Premier League, made almost all his announcements, including that of his sudden exit from India, his allegations against the Board of Cricket Control in India and his legal steps, publicly on Twitter in the last two years.

Interestingly, Modi chose Twitter as a medium to divulge the details of former Indian minister and parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor and his companion Sunanda Pushkar’s commercial involvement in the IPL franchise, which had later led to Tharoor’s resignation from his prestigious ministerial position.

This year a number of hidden facts about the spot fixing scandal in the IPL involving the players of Rajasthan Royals were shared and discussed on Twitter, most of which turned out to be true. Social media has clearly changed, not just in the way scams are communicated, but also the very basis of them.

For instance, a simple tweet from a US Republican senator last year, which praised Hitler’s leadership skills, led to severe criticism on social media and subsequently cost him his position. There are two ways by which social media helps us access the hidden stories of the world.

Firstly, social media has democratized the flow and availability of information. Secondly, it leads to discussions, which then snowballs into a public outcry becoming a subject of mainstream discussion. Scams and crucial information have ceased to live at the mercy of the mainstream media. Therefore, it is not surprising that most global magazines including the likes of the TIME have done at least one cover report every year on the ‘10 Most Shocking Scandals that Broke on Social Media’.

In 2011-12, the growing power of social media in India became evident when India Against Corruption led a protest against corruption and received extraordinary support from the youth on social media. Subsequently, Arvind Kejriwal used Twitter and Facebook as the medium to share details of his investigations on alleged land scams involving Robert Vadra, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.

Among the war of words that followed later, Vadra’s Facebook post read – “Mango people in Banana Republic,” a degrading remark against Kejriwal and his team.

A recent IAMAI report (2011-12) suggests that over 84 percent of internet users in India use social media. Though a small number of them are not active users, the sheer magnitude of information which is worthy of public interest has grown dramatically in the last few years.

A number of scams, conflicts and their solutions have come from social media. The flow of information on social media, especially during controversies, involves thousands to discuss and question the status quo, lending a sense of credibility and seriousness to the medium. As the number of social media users grows, the web of users will become more complex and therefore interesting to watch. This will only boost the interest of the medium and its users.

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