Both social and unsocial media lukewarm to drugs seized in Mumbai

The media which went into a frenzy over seizure of drugs following the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and arrest of Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan, are indifferent to hauls worth Rs 24 Crore

Both social and unsocial media lukewarm to drugs seized in Mumbai

Gautam S Mengle

It has been over four months since Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, was arrested and more than three months since he was released on bail. Social media, however, continues to feed off his misfortune, with 148 tweets about him reaching over four million people in the last eight days alone.

In stark contrast, however, four major drug seizures by the Mumbai Police, in quantities far greater than the one in the Aryan Khan case, were completely ignored by social media users, despite press conference, press releases and news reports.

Aryan was arrested in the early hours of Oct 3 last year, and spent nearly a month behind bars before being grated bail by the Bombay High Court on October 28.

National Herald did a manual count of the number of tweets posted within the first 24 hours of Aryan’s arrest, and found that a total of 578 tweets were posted by non-news media handles. A similar search after four significant drug cases registered by Mumbai Police from December 31, 2021 to January 31, 2022 showed that despite the cases being important in several respects, only a few news media accounts tweeted about them, with no tweets from civilian Twitter accounts whatsoever.

The first of these four cases was the arrest of three accused on New Year’s Eve, who were allegedly found to be in possession of cocaine and mephedrone collectively worth Rs three crore. Next, on January 13, Mumbai police arrested three accused from Antop Hill in Central Mumbai with methaqualone worth Rs 16 crore. Then, On January 17, the Anti Narcotics Cell of the Mumbai Crime Branch seized one kilogram of heroin worth Rs. 3 crore, while the fourth case involved seizure of 970 grams of methaqualone worth Rs. 9.7 lakh.

This reporter further obtained an analysis of Aryan Khan-related tweets via Hashtagify, which maps Twitter trends. The results showed that 148 tweets were posted by 115 users in last eight days, which received 4.4 million impressions. An ‘impression’ is the number of times a tweet appears on a Twitter user’s timeline or newsfeed, based on the content they consume or the keywords they search for.

Senior Congress leader Sachin Sawant said that the trend was hardly surprising, as over the last few years, there has been a pattern to foist a narrative on social media against Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

“Why just Aryan Khan, even in the Sushant Singh Rajput case and the Palghar lynching, a similar methodology was observed. This is a mechanism aimed at creating a narrative in support of BJP,” Sawant said.

This reporter also counted tweets about the arrest of Sahil Shah, who was arrested by the NCB on January 28 this year in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, and found 50 tweets by non-news media accounts. In 2020, shortly after Rajput’s death, Sawant had submitted details of over 80,000 accounts to the police; accounts that were allegedly engaged in a sustained social media campaign to propagate false theories around the case.

Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Clyde Crasto, who is also the Mumbai NCP’s social media head, expressed a complete lack of surprise at NH’s findings.

“It is the tweets that drive a hashtag, which means that the more people who tweet about a hashtag, the more viral it becomes. As a result, social media users tweeting about viral hashtags automatically get more visibility. It is hardly a wonder that no one tweeted about the Mumbai Police’s good work, as there was no personal publicity to be gained. And without doubt, the storm of tweets in Aryan Khan’s case was politically motivated,” Crasto said.

He also lashed out at ‘a certain section of publicity hungry’ officers of the NCB, who went after big names for the sake of personal publicity, despite the quantity of drugs seized being in a few grams. Crasto said that unlike such officers, the Mumbai Police was simply doing its job and not putting image building before duty.

“When the intention is to actually clean up the system of the drug menace--something that social media users were crediting the NCB with doing after the Aryan Khan arrest-- publicity does not matter,” he said.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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