Images are far more provocative than any words can be. The reprehensible video of two women paraded naked in Manipur, where a dangerous ethnic fire has been burning for months, has shaken the country out of its slumber and nonchalance about a far-flung State that most didn’t care about.
The video was released on Twitter, instead of any traditional news channel, and widely circulated, bringing the Manipur violence and ethnic hatred to the forefront of national consciousness.
The administration has cautioned that the distribution of videos that “could lead to problems in law and order” is prohibited by law. However, it is also important to note that if the video had not come out on Twitter, this news would never hit the crescendo it duly deserved to.
Why Twitter works
Twitter is far behind other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in terms of the number of users. It is not the most popular by any yardstick. Compared to Facebook’s 2.9 billion active users, Twitter has only 450 million monthly active users.
However, when it comes to news, Twitter wins hands-down. According to Pew Research Centre, Twitter is the go-to media site for journalists and more than seven-in-ten journalists (69 per cent) use it for their daily jobs.
Twitter’s use as an instrument and platform to share and confirm news has become entrenched in the social media landscape and is critical for all actors in the government, media, and the press. It is also used for connected representation by politicians. Not surprisingly, people on Twitter are avid users of news with 94 per cent of people on Twitter expressing interest in current events, 85 per cent of people on Twitter watching, reading, or listening to the news at least once a day and 83 per cent of people on Twitter tweet about the news.
Twitter wields enormous power in a democracy where opinions are free. It makes up for what it lacks in revenue, size, or growth potential in an unmatched capacity to influence the news we read and the content that gets consumed. Despite Meta (formerly Facebook) launching rival ‘Threads’ with much fanfare and fast uptake, it has failed to retain its audience or claim the same gravitas as Twitter. Threads lost half its daily users within 10 days of launch.
The main purpose of news is to inform the public, and it may also be engaging or entertaining. With influential, powerful, and connected people swarming on Twitter, it has become the dominant news platform in the post-truth era.
Vineeta teaches Communication at Bhavan’s SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. Views are personal