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User complaints represent a small fraction of social media content removal

Even as the Center plans to set up a content moderation appeals authority, data released by the tech giants shows that only a tiny number of social media users have actually filed grievances. Social media transparency reports show that user grievances represent only a small fraction of all content moderation performed by major tech platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. For example, of the 17.5 million proactive content moderation actions taken by Facebook, only 835 were user complaints. Internet experts note that the government must take steps to ensure that social media companies make their redress mechanisms more accessible to users.

The Department of Electronics and Information and Technology published a new set of proposed changes to the 2021 IT rules last month, among them the need for a government appeals forum to respond satisfactorily to user grievances was raised. However, experts say that instead of considering an appeals body, the government should ensure that users can easily submit their grievances through the social media platform.

A key part of the 2021 IT rules, proposed last year, was to make social media companies more accountable, particularly in handling user complaints about objectionable content and other issues users encounter while browsing. use of the platform. This involved assigning a resident grievance officer as well as setting time limits for a company’s resident grievance officer to acknowledge and address a user’s grievances. The companies were also mandated to publish monthly compliance reports, in which the company’s overall content moderation actions, as well as the total number of user complaints received, were to be disclosed. Twelve months later, a very small fraction of users are filing grievances with social media platforms (a few hundred), while top platforms are actively removing millions of content each month.

Activity area analyzed the last four months (February 1 to May 31) of transparency reports from Google, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook. Google had the highest number of consumer complaints, accounting for 10% of content, which Google proactively removed. Facebook was the worst performer, which only filed 2,630 (0.003%) user complaints in the last four months; in the meantime, it deleted nearly 80 million pieces of content. This data is in line with comments from Facebook’s watchdog, which noted that India generally reports low numbers of user complaints. However, experts warn that given the different nature of content on each of these platforms, they should not be compared to each other. Experts agree, however, that user complaints filed each month are still very few.

Overall, across all platforms, Activity area analyzed – user complaints filed accounted for 0.2% of proactive takedowns by the platforms – Google, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook.

1 Feb- 31 May 22 Google Twitter Facebook instagram WhatsApp
Proactive removal 1.5 million 0.17 million 79 million 11.6 million 6.41 million
User complaints 159,796 5,829 2,630 22,315 2,304
Percentage 10.6% 3.45% 0.003% 0.2% 0.03%

While experts attribute most content removed using automated means to spam, they agree that grievance redress mechanisms for big tech need to be made more accessible. Anandita Mishra, Associate Litigation Counsel at the Internet Freedom Foundation, notes that the appeal panel the government wants to set up will not elicit additional engagement with users filing their grievances. “Under the proposed amendments, the committee will review users appealing to the government, in the event that technology companies are unable to satisfactorily address their grievances. Therefore, social media companies will always remain the first point of contact for users. However, this committee could further increase the government’s hand in moderating content on these platforms. The government could moderate content, well beyond its intended mandate under the fundamental right to speech, using this committee. It all depends on the composition of the committee.

Additionally, the complaint redress mechanism needs to become more accessible to Indian users. Amber Sinha, Executive Director of the Center for Internet and Society, said: “Social media platforms need to invest more resources in making complaint filing more accessible. This will include removing the English language barrier, especially since for a majority of Indians on these social media platforms, English is neither their first nor second language. Second, they are also considering making the grievance process more transparent and less automated, to encourage users to file their complaints. In most cases, users feel that their filed complaints have no impact, which discourages users from reporting. »

Published on

July 05, 2022


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