On top of this, several other incidents made this feel like a significant moment for India and how it deals with online abuse:
- The leader of the ruling party filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court seeking to create a mechanism for the government to check tweets for ‘seditious, instigative, separatist, hate-filled, divisive’ content and anything that is ‘against the society at large and against the spirit of the Union of India’. Wow.
Faizal Siddiqui, a popular Indian social media influencer with 13.4m followers, was banned from TikTok for posting a video of a woman having liquid was thrown in her face and suffering scarring (it was make-up). TikTok India banned him on the basis that the content 'risks safety of others, promotes physical harm or glorifies violence against women’ and banned him and the head of India’s National Commission for Women publicly sought to have TikTok banned.
These mini-dramas are notable because they come at a time when India is in the process of revising the Intermediary Liability rules of the Information Technology Act, which governs how social media companies monitor and take down content based on the request of the government. This is not an easy endeavour — the number of internet users in India is only second globally to China and the diversity of its citizens make creating country-wide policy very complex. This week’s collective outpouring, at least from afar, felt like Indian users were waking up to the possible impact of such legislation, both positive and otherwise.
At the same time, more moderator’ stories are also making their way out into the open, albeit anonymously. Money Control this week wrote
about the experience of ‘Ramya’, an engineer that took a content moderator job at Cognizant for 8,700 rupees a year (around £93) before being laid off when the company left the content moderation market last year. Her quotes are telling.
“It was horrible. We were treated worse than dogs, with low pay and more importantly no respect.”
Back in March, LiveMint also published an article
about moderators being refused leave and prevented from going sick more than 7 days a year. Ulcers as a result of skipping meals and financial stress because the bank can’t reach you to confirm your loan (phone are banned at most BPOs) are not uncommon.
Such demand for change— from both users but also moderators — in a country as large and as significant in the commercial moderation ecosystem as India is notable. We may look back on this week as the week when momentum started to really shift in favour of regulation.