Had a lot of fun in this long freewheeling chat about #WhiteHatJr, parallels with IIPM, details of the common tactics, and then a general conversation about the post truth world. And how the idealism of blogging days was stymied by sophisticated misinformation swarms.
My laptop was tied up elsewhere so had to prop up my phone for this interview and omg my jowls 😭😭😭😭
"Imagine if you wrote a negative review of a restaurant online saying their food was horrible and the restaurant took you to court because they found your review mean. That's what #WhiteHatJr is doing."
In the video, I elaborate on the 3 pronged strategies of such firms
1. Buy a LOT of advertising in mainstream media. Misleading to outright false.
2. Media is reluctant to investigate big advertisers
3. Bully, harrass, and exhaust critics on social media.
A sophisticated model.
Information asymmetry is inherent to any transaction. The seller always has more information than the buyer. Most sellers, if honest, will share information readily.
Those with dodgy offerings will obviously exploit this information asymmetry with misleading or false ads.
The only other two major sources of information are the media or other customers and reviewers.
If you manage to be lucrative enough for a media entity, you can manage that. And if you use paid labor to target social media or online reviews, you can play dirty tricks there too.
I also talk about how I was lucky that in 2005, there really were no legal options to sue an individual easily in India for online posts or defamation. You could hope a legal threat scared them off. But if it didn't, then the bad guys didn't have many options.
But in the last 15 years, Indian governments (both parties) and courts have made it almost shamefully easy for anyone with money or power to go after an individual's opinions. Be it a political party or a company or a rapist ex editor. Pradeep Poonia is fighting a harder battle.
Basically if a dishonest company or political party wants to shut down online dissent from a common citizen, an easy way is to create such a big nuisance/hassle cost for having that opinion, that 99.9% people won't find the effort worth it. Trolling, swarm reporting, lawsuits.
On one side, you have a paid army of well trained employees executing this misinformation strategy. On the other side, individuals or activists fighting the good fight unpaid. Eventually, most people find the fight north worth the mental toll. That's what these folks count on.
I also mention how the very spontaneous, organized, and knowledgeable support and advice from blog friends was crucial to me not giving in to the threats. Folks like @amitvarma @zigzackly @nilanjanaroy @MumbaiCentral @madmanweb @sruthijith and so many more, standing by me.
If I was just a random blogger without this invaluable wealth of blog friends, willing to offer public support, jobs, free legal advice, etc etc, I don't know if I'd have had the stamina to keep shrugging off IIPM. Even until 6 years later, they kept at it with me. 2 examples. ImageImage
Others stood up for me when I was doing the right thing. I stand with @whiteHatSnr @SukumarSwathi @malpani and others who are also doing the right thing. Given the information asymmetry advantage that deep pockets have, we need to keep amplifying such voices.
Don't let anyone tell you online activism is pointless or just an exercise in virtue signaling. It can have real impact, big and small. Dozens of emails like this one that I kept getting regularly until IIPM shut down. The #whiteHatJrScam activists are doing even more. Image
Sanjukta asked me if I see more or less support for Poonia & co compared to 2005. And I say even though he might have numerically more support, a big difference is this "other side" that feeds on misinformation and lies is very strong now. Didn't really exist in 2005.
In 2005 India, I could laugh off these threats about arrest warrants as obvious lies meant to intimidate. In 2020 India, I would take them way more seriously. Image
Another thing we discussed. Bullies are so not used to someone standing up to them, that they take it as a personal insult. And even if tactically, it's more sensible to just move on, they double down on the one fighting back. And confirm their true character in the process.
At 37:25, I do a true #Trekkie thing by mentioning The Borg from #StarTrek as a parallel for these dedicated well funded online misinformation and bullying hives. You can beat them once. But then they evolve. And get even harder to beat. It's a relentless swarm.

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More from @gauravsabnis

13 Dec
TIL that Bhakt whatsapp, usually busy researching archaic islamic theology, has taken a break to research Canada's agriculture laws. 😂
To attack Trudeau 😂
Never mind that Trudeau didn't criticize the laws. Just the treatment of protesters.

Modi voters are so default dishonest!
Vajpayee was no saint, but he got regularly criticized and lampooned and even officially internationally sanctioned. Not once was there "HOW DARE YOU?" pushback from his people. Shekhar Suman rebooted his career by lampooning Vajpayee.

Modi is so thin-skinned and insecure!
Hearing more about it, this isn't something to "😂" at but rather "😳". This is some well thought out sophistry from the bhakt-lite camp. The logic is, Canada has laws similar to what BJP passed. So Trudeau is out of line. Again, he only talked about protests. But let's see...
Read 4 tweets
13 Dec
Almost any elite Indian's dream of a "developed" India will have Nordic type infrastructure and safety and low crime. But still daily domestic help that is paid in Indian wage terms, cheap autos and cabs, cheap food delivery etc.
And therein lies the disconnect between the urban elites (especially Modi lovers) and the protesting farmers. They seem almost outraged that these farmers look better off than the emaciated ones in old newsreels, but are still protesting. Bhakts consider them "uppity".
The subtext of the lofty sounding "Jai jawaan, jai kisaan" is that it is the duty of soldiers and farmers to be overworked and underpaid. And now that farmers don't look emaciated, they are suddenly thought of as fat cats. By people sitting in westernized apartment complexes.
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10 Dec
A very underrated and underknown figure. Centuries ahead of his time. And he got exactly the kind of pushback that Defund Police activists do today. To temper his "radical" positions towards the center. But without him, the center would have been considered radical.
This is a point I've been trying to make since the election to well meaning liberals who are going after the progressive wing and especially the squad, saying defund or GND or M4A are unrealistic pipe dreams. They might end up being. But those positions are ideological anchors.
Many like Lincoln himself (who until the war was kinda centrist if not conservative on race by today's standards) lectured Garrison, saying dude, be realistic. But he stuck to his positions and advocacy. And the center slowly moved towards him.
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9 Dec
Oh wow, this is huge! This is a bipartisan challenge to Facebook, if it involves the federal government AND 48 states. No republican democrat differentiation here. This is the United States declaring war on Facebook!
It'll take a while for everyone to realize what a huge deal this is. Like earth shattering historic huge. In these ultra polarized times when the 2 parties can't even agree on an election outcome, they are united in wanting to dismantle Facebook!

Anti-trust actions in the past against IBM, Microsoft etc haven't really gone anywhere. Mostly because by the time the lawsuits played out, the companies had stopped being monopolies, so prosecutors lost interest.

But this Facebook suit is WAY more all encompassing!
Read 7 tweets
9 Dec
मी संयुक्त बहुग्रहीक संघराज्याच्या अंतरिक्ष यान उ. स. स. एंटरप्राइझ चा कर्णधार झीन-लुच पिकॉर्ड बोलत आहे!
अरे जिम्या, मेलाय हा! @11ty1
ती लक्ष्मणरेखा इथेच ओढली पाहिजे! फक्त इथपर्यन्त! त्यपुढे एक तिसु देखील नाही! 😠😠😠😠
Read 4 tweets
9 Dec
This chapter in the Obama book kinda depressed me. Because it reminded me that on carbon emissions, US and China are in a kind of a Nash Equilibrium in not changing their respective positions. They can each justifiably blame the other to their domestic audiences. Image
When this happened, Democrats had 60 seats in the senate. But climate change has gotten so politicized in America that Obama couldn't even think of convincing 7 Republican senators to go along and ratify a binding climate treaty. That was our last dance. Under pressure.
It didn't used to be like this. Nixon set up the EPA and passed the Clear Air and Water Acts. Until then, US skies were as smoggy and heavy as Indian and Chinese cities.
Remember acid rain? Bush Sr was the one who changed policies to make it a distant memory. Republicans both.
Read 5 tweets

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