‘Is the girl included in the package?’, ‘Are those legs included?’ ‘Ladki lake do’. These are not the worst of the comments that show up on our posts every single day. There are much sicker ones. We tried reporting these, but the platforms won’t remove them citing free speech. So basically free speech means that one can’t show breastfeeding on the platforms, but a rape threat can exist. Ok then! So we decided to go after this rampant trolling at women on our platforms and publicly school them. And we do this every single day of the year.
According to a Nielsen Report, 40% of Indian women fear online trolls as they access the Internet. As per another recent report, 55% of women said they experienced stress, anxiety and panic attacks as a result of online abuse. Over 60% reported that this has resulted in a loss of self-confidence, while 56% said they couldn’t concentrate because of this. What does this lead to? It virtually silences women from posting or actively engaging on social media.
Many social activists and influencers have repeatedly shed light on this issue – women don’t feel safe online. If this is how the internet treats well-known women personalities with a strong voice, imagine the trauma faced by normal women everyday? As the popular social media influencer Mallika Dua points out in her recent Instagram post, social media trolling and harassment against women is not okay. But what do we do about it? We throw around phrases like ‘ignorance is bliss’, ‘chhod na’, ‘forget it’, ‘it’s the world we live in today’ and the most defying one yet – ‘there’s nothing much we can do about it’. As a fact of the matter, we CAN and we MUST.
When you come to think of it, have we ever come across a woman who hasn’t faced online threats, trolling or harassment at least once in her life? And how are we as members of a responsible society tackling this menace? These are the questions that moved us at OYO.
As a responsible brand, we took this challenge head-on. We decided to make spaces safer for all our guests and especially women, definitely offline at our hotels and indeed online across our social platforms. This thought drove us to make a real impact and on International Women’s Day last year, we mobilised ORM, usually, a function that deals with consumer complaints and transformed it into a first responder that supports women and corrects lewd behavior. For us, this was brand building at its simplest yet deepest level.
Fun fact – this campaign started on Women’s Day but is today a policy at OYO. We are now tackling this issue on a daily basis by identifying lewd trolls targetted towards women and schooling them through positive reinforcement.
A year later, we have schooled over 3500+ trolls leaving smutty or unpleasant comments against women across our social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We addressed 3300+ gaalis or abusive language over the past year. With around 1030+ ‘Ladki milegi’ trolls, unfortunately, it was one of the most used phrases against women on our platforms. And we took the liberty to school them.
While our campaign resulted in 8500+ engagements, what makes us truly happy is that some trolls had a change of heart and chose to delete their comments, while 300+ trolls also apologized for their behavior. That’s almost one every day and that is one more person who is hopefully chastened and won’t repeat this, we hope. On a lighter note, the majority of trolls riding a guilt-trip responded to our schooling with a defensive ‘Arrey Bhai’ comment.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, all we have to say is stand up against online bullying and instead, celebrate women. And I mean ALL OF US.- men and women. Women deserve to be treated respectfully, offline and most definitely online. While it’s been a year, this is still just the beginning for us. There’s a long way to go. This is not a campaign, activation or anything. It’s just the right thing to do and we will continue to do it as a matter of course. We hope our initiative inspires everyone to make the internet safe again.
Here’s to a pandemic-free and (troll-proof) year!
Mayur Hola is the Head of Global Brand, OYO Hotels & Homes