Sonali Jain, a fourth-year law student from Chennai, whose Instagram video on the Thoothukudi custodial deaths case went viral on Instagram, talks about her mission to try and address important present-day issues and ‘flattening the misinformation curve’ with facts. Edited Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Anupama. A from News Aur Chai Media follows.
“All information on social media, no matter how well-intended, is sometimes misinformation,” said Sonali Jain, while talking about the video she had posted on the Jayaraj and Bennick’s case that had taken social media by storm a few weeks back. “I saw a lot of posts that said that suspension of the policemen was the only punishment given to them. The court had already taken cognizance of the case, and the investigation had already started. The suspension was just a disciplinary action until the FIR was filed. Half the people on social media didn’t know that this was the case.”
The video was widely circulated on Instagram and now has over 6,50,000 views and 500 comments.
When asked about her reaction to the response, she said, “I didn’t realize when I made it that it would go viral. When it did, I understood that people do want information. So, I decided that this is the best way for someone like me, who has access to good education and can take so much from the community, to give back and share the information and privilege I have.”
The fourth-year law student from School of Excellence in Law, Chennai had posted the video on June 27, after reading about the case in newspapers and seeing several social media posts on the issue.
“I came across the hashtag #wedemandjustice in several posts,” She continued. “The court has already taken up the case. What we’re asking for has already been given. We don’t want the government to start considering the protests and emails as spam. Instead, we should be trying to make more tangible demands like the CCTV camera footage or the police report.”
Sonali then discussed the power of social media and the kind of impact it can have, by giving the example of the Jallikattu Protests that happened across Tamil Nadu in 2017, against the ban on the traditional sport.
“The impact of social media was so huge in the Jallikattu protests that it led to a policy change,” said Sonali. “When social media has such a huge bearing, spreading credible information is crucial. That is the reason I made the video.”
Sonali’s initiative focuses on trying to curb the spread of misinformation and fake news prevalent on all social media platforms. However, are such initiatives enough? What about legal enforcement or actions from the government?
When posed with the question, Sonali answered, “It’s not possible to regulate every post on social media. You can’t do it because it’s borderline censorship. What people are allowed to say online, is governed by the Information Technology Act (IT Act, 2000) in India. There are other provisions as well, such as defamation, which limit what you can post.”
While the IT Act does regulate what people can or cannot post on social media, the young law student agreed that it was outdated and needed to be updated with current developments.
“Over the years, there has been a lot of development that has not been accounted for in the act. It is a developing field of law, and I feel like it requires much change.”
Sonali recently released her second video on the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) draft, another issue that has been trending on social media, with a title similar to the last one, which reads ‘Flattening the Misinformation Curve’. She also mentioned in the video that she would be posting a video that consists of a more detailed discussion about the draft and its repercussions with two experts in the field.
“It’s a discussion on a Zoom call, so I’m in the process of editing it. I might post it on YouTube this time because it is quite lengthy.”
When asked if she was planning to create a regular IGTV series of such videos, the millennial affirmed the possibility and indicated that there is more to come.
“That’s the plan.” She said, confirming a regular IGTV series. “Maybe a video a week. I’m also planning to meet with experts from various industries and discuss the legal rights pertaining to them- Like maybe people from the fashion industry or media industry and create a sort of ‘Know Your Rights’ Series.”
Her next video on the recent amendments to the Disability Act is in the works.
“I’m planning on making a video about the amendments in The Disability Act as well.” She said, talking about her next post. “I feel like, during the pandemic, when people are more worried about their safety, monumental changes should not be made by the government. It is our constitutional right to be a part of the public process, a part of the discussions that affect us.”
To take a look at Sonali’s latest IGTV video on the EIA draft and to keep a lookout for the posts yet to come, check out her Instagram page here.