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India’s GAC issued 10 orders to social media platforms in August

MediaNama highlights the following trends of user grievances in August after looking at transparency reports from Meta, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google.

What’s the news: India’s Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) issued 10 orders to social media companies Meta (Facebook and Instagram) and WhatsApp in August 2023, as per transparency reports. Compared to the 5 notices sent to WhatsApp in July 2023, the platform only received a single GAC order in the following month. Meanwhile, Meta received 9 orders in August, one more than the number of orders it received in the previous month.

What is GAC? Created as per an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, the GAC is a regulating body which acts as the final decision-maker in case of user grievances. Its orders are binding on the platforms, who wish to retain their safe harbor protections. As MediaNama has mentioned before, there is little information about the nature of the orders sent by GAC except for details about the time and number of orders sent out. MediaNama earlier filed an RTI in this regard and will update readers once the government sends in its response.

Key takeaways from August’s transparency reports

MediaNama highlights the following trends of user grievances between August 1 and August 31 after looking at transparency reports from Meta, WhatsApp, Twitter (July 26 to August 25) and Google:

  • Users raised 90 thousand complaints: WhatsApp received 14,767 grievances in August, of which 12,461 complaints appealed for account bans. Facebook received 25,049 complaints whereas Instagram received 20,904 complaints. Both platforms flagged significant inappropriate or abusive content. Twitter reported 1,467 complaints with 1,267 grievances against abuse/harassment. Google reported 28,675 complaints with 26,533 copyright grievances.
  • Account bans and removal actions: WhatsApp banned 7,420,748 accounts while Twitter suspended 68 accounts after receiving 78 grievances for the same and overturning 10 complaints. Further, the platform actioned against 2,467 URLs. Google took 110,267 removal actions based on user complaints. Facebook took action against 5,045 reports while Instagram took action against 6,322 reports.
  • 825.9 thousand child abuse cases reported in August: Facebook reported 384,300 child sexual exploitation cases and 156,300 cases of child nudity and physical abuse. Instagram reported 255,200 child sexual exploitation cases and 30,100 child nudity and physical abuse. Twitter received 43 child sexual exploitation complaints and took action against 11 URLs based on the same.
  • Hate crimes reduced in August: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter together reported 189,062 hate-related content. This is less than the over-900 thousand incidents reported in the previous month. Instagram recorded the highest number of such hate-speech content pieces with 7,36,000 content pieces. Facebook reported 1,79,900 content pieces. Twitter reported 54 hateful conduct incidents.
  • Suicide and self-injury cases remain a concern: Instagram and Facebook together accounted for 3.4 million content pieces related to suicide and self-injury in August. Instagram reported as many as 2.2 million content pieces whereas Facebook reported 1.2 million content pieces. Twitter reported 23 complaints related to the promotion of suicide or self-harm – a sharp spike from the single complaint reported in July.

Note: The total number of child abuse cases reported in August was corrected to 825.9 thousand cases instead of 9 thousand cases at 12 PM on November 2, 2023.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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