Online abuse: Chinese apps like TikTok, Bigo Live on women panel's radar

The issue of trolling or abuse on social media platforms, especially related to women, has been a serious cause for concern in recent times
The parliamentary standing committee for empowerment of women is keeping tabs on Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, Helo and Bigo Live, among others, in a fresh bid to curb online abuse and trolling against women and young adults.

According to sources, the committee may soon call representatives of these firms to take stock of the steps they are taking for preventing online abuse and trolling. 

Time and again, several government agencies and courts have brought up the issue of safety of young adults on these Chinese apps. The standing committee wants to understand and review the tangible steps they have taken on the issue.

Highlighting the numerous examples of trolling and abuse on social media targeted against women and young adults, the committee is telling social media giants, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to take action.

On Thursday, the panel members asked Facebook representatives questions about how the platform tackles abuse of women, trolling and morphing. The panel also asked them to proactively take down objectionable content rather than be reactive, which means taking down content when reported by a user.

According to sources, the panel members also said that the response time for taking down objectionable content was very high and should be brought down. Facebook, it is learnt, offered training and sensitisation to lawmakers. 

The all-women team, led by public policy director Ankhi Das, also briefed the panel about the steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse of women on the platform.

“We recognise how important it is for Facebook and our family of apps to be a place where everyone feels empowered and safe to communicate, and we take our role in keeping abuse off our services seriously. Increasingly, we’re using artificial intelligence on our platforms. Our commitment to the safety of our community – especially women and children – is what drives our focus on the important societal issues of gendered abuse, both online and offline. This is why we continue to invest in awareness building, teams, technology and resources, to protect the safety and security of people who use our services,” said Ankhi Das, director of public policy, Facebook Inc India.

Industry experts said it is critical that the minimum age for a social media account is changed from 13 years to 15 years. Also, a robust age verification system is put in place, including parent consents for account of minors. 

“This, along with the requirement to make real identities mandatory and proactive removal of offensive and inappropriate content, will solve 80 per cent of the problem of harassment of women and children online. The whole question at hand is not about the capability of these platforms but their intent,” said Sachin Taparia, founder & chairman, LocalCircles. 

He added that the standing committee should also discuss the issue with platforms such as TikTok and Bigo Live.

In the interaction with Twitter representatives on Wednesday, the panel asked the microblogging platform not to allow people under 15 to sign up. Another suggestion was to make the process of verification using identification documents like passports and so on to ensure only real people had accounts.

The issue of trolling or abuse on social media platforms, especially related to women, has been a serious cause for concern in recent times. The government has been trying to ensure more stringent verification checks on these platforms. This is being done to tackle the issue of cyber bullying.


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