Failure of Social Media Community Guidelines in India

I have travelled the country for the past 3 years doing online safety workshops in colleges. After executing over 400 workshops in 92 cities of 30 states and UT’s in India, I can confidently tell you that the amazingly drafted community guidelines do not work in India. The reasons are more to do with India rather than the platforms.

When we ask our participants do then know about Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Whatsapp/TikTok they know these platforms, most of them are using them. But when we ask them about community guidelines, they are clueless about the concept. They do not know what is the meaning of the word! Though I can promise you all the platforms have amazing guidelines, in fact here is the link for you to read them as well

1. Facebook
2. Instagram
3. Twitter
4. WhatsApp
5. TikTok

That's the primary issue, had it been called rules and regulations, or laws, or do's and don'ts (which is pretty much what they are, it would help in the Indian scenario). Next, they are extremely difficult to find. Which makes sense as they are not thought to be a part of the user experience.

Once the user has jumped the hurdle of finding where they are (that's the super proactive/informed/curious ones, my anecdotal guess is about 10%). Understanding the community guidelines is a profession by itself, so if you don’t have a legal/ policy background, you are lost.

Another phenomenon observed in India is people tagging the platform/its owners/people working at the platform, rather than reporting it. Its identical to how people are offline : we often observe them complaining about crime/bad roads/illegal behaviour, but never reporting it !

Its extremely important to understand that most of the people behave on social media platform as per their peers. So if you happen to join and your immediate network is talking just about BasketBall then that's pretty much your online experience (#EchoChambers). On the other side if your peer group is indulging in sharing pornography/information on drugs/weapons/hate/Well then, that’s your social media experience and you indulge in the same behaviour, without even realizing its anti-social.

As the platforms are hungry for data and the users addicted to the dopamine released via likes/shares/view counts it turns into a spiral of searching/creating more hard hitting exclusive content. (This process is neutral to the social outcomes, where at one end it leads to raising millions of dollars for a good cause one the other it leads to extreme abusive content).

I hope platforms understand the cultural sensitivities and behaviour of users and create tools/mechanisms which would be adopted at a higher scale. There have been knee jerk reactions done by Whatsaap and Facebook in matters of #FakeNews, but we need a lot more to be done when its comes to awareness and implementation of community guidelines in India.

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