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Over 20 GAC orders sent to Meta and WhatsApp in October, show transparency reports

October saw a sharp rise in online hate speech, with significant actions taken by Meta, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

India’s Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) sent 17 orders to social media company Meta (Facebook and Instagram) and 5 orders to messaging platform WhatsApp in October 2023. Platforms stated in their transparency reports that all orders received have been complied with. However, a comparison of the two companies’ reports, along with Google’s and Twitter’s, with September data shows a considerable increase in hate speech and aggressive behaviour on social media in October.

The GAC, created following an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, is the final grievance redressal authority for users. Its orders are binding on platforms, for them to retain their safe harbor protections. As per the GAC website, it has received 313 appeals from users by December 4, 2023 and disposed 291 such appeals. Yet, there is still little known about the nature and details of these orders.

Highlights of October’s transparency reports from platforms

These are the following trends of user grievances between October 1 and October 31 after looking at transparency reports from Meta, WhatsApp, Google and Twitter (September 26 to October 25):

  • Significant increase in hate crime: Hate incidents across platforms increased in October. It may be noted that October 7 also marks the start of the Israel-Palestine war. Twitter reported 1,424 incidents of hateful conduct in October from 1,063 incidents in September. It also reported 2,192 URLs actioned in October, a significant rise from the 1,394 URLs actioned in September. Instagram recorded 47.8 thousand hate speech incidents in October as against 35.5 thousand hate-speech content pieces in September. Similarly, Facebook reported 88 thousand hate speech incidents in its latest report compared to 86.4 thousand such content pieces in September.
  • Content on “Regulated Goods: Firearms” doubles on Meta: In October Facebook reported 10.4 thousand content pieces in the “Regulated Goods: Firearms” and Instagram reported 2.4 thousand such content pieces. This is near-double of what the platforms reported in September i.e., 5.6 thousand reports from Facebook and 1.6 thousand reports from Instagram.
  • Considerable dip in suicide and self-injury cases: Instagram and Facebook together accounted for around 1.6 million self-harm related incidents in October, a significant increase from the 3.1 million incidents reported in September. This is largely due Instagram’s reports going down from 2.1 million such content pieces in September to 666.7 thousand content pieces in October. Twitter too reported 9 complaints related to the promotion of suicide or self-harm in its latest report and took action on 5 URLs for the same. In the previous report, Twitter had reported 33 cases.
  • Child abuse cases reduced in October: Facebook reported 454.1 thousand child sexual exploitation content pieces and 91.4 thousand content pieces of child nudity and physical abuse. Instagram reported 254.2 thousand child sexual exploitation incidents and 21.6 thousand child nudity and physical abuse incidents. Twitter received 366 child sexual exploitation complaints and took action against 73 URLs based on the same. Overall, there were 821.3 thousand incidents of child abuse in October as against 1,067.3 thousand incidents reported in September.
  • WhatsApp alone bans over 7 million accounts: WhatsApp banned 7,548,000 accounts, while Google took 65,659 removal actions based on user complaints. Twitter suspended 35 accounts after receiving 78 grievances for the same and overturning 43 complaints. It also actioned against 3,798 URLs in October. Facebook took action against 2,132 reports while Instagram took action against 1,908 reports.
  • Google receives the highest number of user complaints: Google reported 22,657 complaints with 20,551 copyright grievances. Facebook received 12,960 complaints whereas Instagram received 8,252 complaints. WhatsApp received 9,063 grievances, of which 4,771 complaints appealed for account bans. Twitter reported 3,229 complaints with 1,424 grievances regarding hateful conduct.

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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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