Business Today

When Clean-Up Fails

Moderating user-generated content on social media has proven to be a tough task for companies.
Devika Singh   New Delhi     Print Edition: March 24, 2019
When Clean-Up Fails
Illustration by Aay Thakuri

Journalist Barkha Dutt has been a frequent target of trolls on social media platforms. But who could have thought that reporting these incidents might lead to blocking of her account? Recently, when she tweeted some of the threat pictures sent to her, Twitter blocked her account for 12 hours.

It was, however, restored after she reported the blackout to the authorities of the microblogging site. Twitter defended its move by saying its users are not allowed to publish or post other people's private information without their express authorisation and permission (it is unclear whether those posts carried personal details of the people who had abused her on social media). Whatever be the reason, this is just one example of how technology fails when it comes to taking complex and nuanced decisions about social media content.

Apart from using automated tools, most social media companies claim to have in-house teams in place to monitor and moderate content. Also, a recent draft regulation by the government says that any social media company operating in India and having more than five million users in the country must deploy automated tools for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content. In spite of these initiatives, social media firms are failing to curb such content.

According to Pratik Sinha, Co-founder of the fact-checking website AltNews, social media companies are failing at multiple levels when it comes to monitoring user-generated content. "Their whole business model is based on making content viral and this is at odds with checking content which is abusive or pornographic," he adds.

However, Raman Kalra, Partner, Entertainment, Media and Sports Sector, PwC India, does not concur. "Social media companies are investing in technologies which can moderate user-generated content. But it cannot be done in a hurry as these tools learn to filter content over time."

Social media firms are also taking prompt action. For instance, Chinese social media company TikTok, which was under fire for featuring pornographic content, has launched a safety initiative in India to make users aware of safe practices on the Internet. It also claims to have moderator teams for 36 languages (including major Indian languages) across 20 countries. "As a company, we need to invest in these tools, and right now, we are only scratching the surface. We will continue with these measures in India and invest in local language initiatives," says Helena Lersch, Director of Global Public Policy at ByteDance, TikTok's parent company.

Experts think technology or human intervention alone cannot solve this problem. Both must be used to track, monitor and filter social media content although technology will soon play a bigger role.

Revamped App

Snap Co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel recently announced that Snapchat's redesigned Android app would be available to users by the end of 2019. According to him, this could be a major growth trigger in markets such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines where the platform has failed to gain traction due to mediocre Android experience.

Instagram Eyes Pinterest-like Collections

Instagram seems to be replicating a feature of another social media app yet again. And this time, it is Pinterest. According to a report by technology news site TechCrunch, Instagram is testing a public Collections feature that will allow users to save and organise their favourite Instagram posts into groups and share them with others. The report also says that users will be able to contribute to other people's public collections after taking their permission.

Eight Minutes at the Top

T-Series finally dethroned PewDiePie as the most popular channel on YouTube but only for eight minutes. for months now, The Indian company has been in a tight race with the Swedish YouTuber to become the most subscribed YouTube channel. but the glory did not last long.


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