Anti-Hindu, woke feminist: Inside the unprecedented online trolling of CJI Chandrachud

Between January and April, the hashtag #NotMyCJI was used 1,747 times on Twitter.

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At the Ramnath Goenka Awards for excellence in journalism earlier this year, which Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud attended as chief guest, he joked about how his staff had advised him to abstain from scrolling on Twitter due to the trolling he would witness. 

The CJI has said this before. 

In March, he said judges were “no exception” from being trolled on social media. In the same month, 13 MPs wrote to president Droupadi Murmu about how the CJI was being attacked by a “troll army, presumably sympathetic to the ruling party in Maharashtra.” The CJI was hearing the Sena versus Sena case at the time.

The signatories – which included Raghav Chaddha (Aam Aadmi Party), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena Uddhav), Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) and Digvijaya Singh (Congress) – demanded immediate action against the “culprits”.

So, does this troll army exist? 

In collaboration with Sheyril Agarwal and Joyojeet Pal from the University of Michigan, Newslaundry analysed data from January 1 to April 20 to understand the nature of trolling against CJI Chandrachud. 

We searched for tweets containing one of these hashtags – #NotMyCJI, #CJIDYChandrachud, #CJI or #Chandrachud – along with tweets that contained the word “Chandrachud”. 

That gave us a dataset comprising 7,53,848 tweets, of which 1,16,669 were original posts, meaning they weren’t retweets. At least 268 tweets were copy-pasted five times – an indicator of these tweets being the result of organised behaviour.

The hashtag #notmycji was used 1747 times within the time period, #nosamesex marriage 433 times, #undemocraticsupremecourt 366 times, #genderbiasedlaws 349 times, and #judiciarymustaplogise 256 times. 

While chief justices routinely receive criticism and trolling on social media, the current CJI has been targeted to the extent of being the top trending topic for several weeks. Only celebrities or major politicians typically get this scope of engagement online, unless there’s a single massive event that precipitates such engagement.

Influencers drive the narrative

Digital influencers were the major drivers of the social media discourse around the CJI.  To understand the political positioning of these influencers, we calculated a “polarisation” score by using a formula we came up with – based on a snapshot of their current Twitter network and their retweeting habits. 

This was one of the two user sets used by this study to look into the role played by “user polarisation” – or echo chambers suggesting the lack of exposure to cross-ideological content. The second user set and its relevance will be explained later in this report.

The polarisation score approach might be simplistic, but it allowed us to estimate a user’s political alignment, and to approximate the strength and direction of a highly engaged user’s polarisation. 

We visualise here the most impactful accounts in moving the discourse around the Chief Justice of India.

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