Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in India. Indian youth, in the 18-35 years age group, has shifted to Instagram and is proactively posting content like photos, reels etc.
Instagram has opened up opportunities for youngsters to become content creators or entrepreneurs. It has allowed them to expand their businesses by engaging with their followers, even outside their friend list.
Instagram started as a feel-good platform where people mostly shared aesthetic photos. The younger audience gradually shifted from Facebook to Instagram for this precise reason.
Many youngsters also felt that Facebook was “taken over” by the older generation, who actively shared fake news and videos or wrote something embarrassing on their profiles.
Hence, Instagram became a comfortable space for youth to talk about issues and post things that they liked… Things they didn’t want the elder generation to see or criticise.
Instagram, with its massive audience in the age group of 18-35 years, allowed political parties and their supporters to influence them as voters, or believers.
Many people with an extremist agenda also got a free pass to post whatever they liked on the platform and influence millions.
My experience with reporting fake news and hate speech on Instagram has been terrible. A post on Instagram openly inciting violence and threats still exists despite reporting it several times.
The account has 1,455 followers and regularly posts about attacking members of the other religion to a point where they misrepresented and insulted the Indian flag.
Upon reporting this post and several others, what I received was the most ignorant response I could imagine.
The first response from Instagram was that they were unable to review the posts “due to the high volume of reports” they receive, but their “technology” found that it did not go against their community guidelines.
I was offended, my national flag was insulted and the platform was giving me the most pathetic reason to not take action. Even government offices do not say that they were unable to view my application because they received a high volume of applications.
Dissatisfied with the reply, I scrolled down and naturally asked for a review by a human and not their technology.
To my shock, Instagram replied within minutes of the review and said that the post does not go against their community guidelines, and that I should either block or mute the account.
This incident prompted me to report more accounts violating guidelines—well, at least in my understanding, they did. Not one account has been taken down by Instagram to date. The posts I reported are still visible to all.
Twitter, on the other hand, is proactive in suspending accounts (temporarily or permanently) and even marks tweets with fake or unfounded claims as “manipulated media” or “misinformation”.
Starkly opposite to this is Instagram, which takes NO ACTION against violators. While their community guidelines are very clear, but in reality, there is no implementation of these guidelines.
Let me make one thing clear, I do not report every post on Instagram. There are several pages whose content I do not agree with, but that does not qualify for it to be reported—not by me, at least.
Hate speech for me is simple—it is inciting violence and promoting disharmony among people. The post I mentioned above is a violation of the Indian flag code and promotes disharmony between communities in India.
Our national flag is our pride and it was misrepresented by a social media handle… Yet, it did not go against the so-called community guidelines of Instagram.
Instagram, acquired by Facebook, is working on the same principle that gives hate speech and fake news a free pass. It all simmers down to views and engagement.
Facebook and Instagram are least bothered about the impact it has on democracies and communities across the globe. Their vested profit-making interest is visible.
There is concrete evidence that these social media platforms have promoted violence between communities , but they are still doing mere lip service when it comes to implementing their community guidelines.
Raising a voice against social media giants like Facebook and Instagram seems like a herculean task, but it is not entirely impossible. As concerned citizens, we should be aware of these violations and together speak up.