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Most troubling abuse of YouTube in India involves targeting of Muslims by backers of the BJP: NYU Stern Report

India with 450 million users is the platform’s biggest market, and content creators have been fuelling Islamophobia, finds the report

CJP Team 16 Jun 2022

NYU Stern CentreImage Courtesy: thewire.in

A recent report by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights has revealed how YouTube “serves as a venue for political disinformation, public health myths, and incitement of violence.”

India is the platform’s biggest market with more than 450 million users. But unfortunately a large number of these users are engaged in targeting of Muslims, the content creators allegedly being backers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other right-leaning Hindu nationalist groups, according to the report titled A Platform Weaponized: How YouTube Spreads Harmful Content-And What Can Be Done About It.

The report cites a 2021 report titled How Anti-Muslim Content Spreads on YouTube in India, where a non-profit organization called First Draft News which counters hate and misinformation, identified a number of Islamophobic channels, “each with more than a million subscribers that demean Muslims and incite violence against them.”

Moreover, the report focuses on the online attacks on women “often blend with anti-Muslim themes in India” who are made subject to grave threats often delivered as selfie videos. The fact that social media can be toxic to and for all women, regardless of religion, region, political affiliation and even nationality, is indisputable. But in India, Muslim women in particular are subject to an orchestrated right-wing campaign, abused for both their gender and their religion. This is made worse with the tacit complicity of the government of the day that harbours a hate-filled ideology and holds undisputed sway and power.

The report even addressed last year’s incident where nearly 80 Muslim women were targeted and put up “for sale” on the S**li Deals app, and in January 2022, where over 100 Muslim women were targeted using the B**li Bai app. Both B**li and S**li are sexually derogatory words used to target Muslim women. In both cases, there was no real sale of any kind – the purpose was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women by sharing their personal images, and also to harass them by sharing their personal information.

Moreover, Karen Rebelo, an investigative reporter told the NYU Stern Center how social media has “diluted the quality of journalism and allowed the rise of propaganda to masquerade as news.” Speaking of Hindutva hostility towards Muslims in India, the report names news outlets such as News Nation, ABP News and Zee News with millions of subscribers on YouTube who are actively involved in spreading “anti-Muslim animus” on a daily basis and even amplifying “misleading and inflammatory claims” against Muslims specially during the pandemic. 

For instance, it stated how the viral videos on the platform helped spread a conspiracy theory that Muslims purposefully spread coronavirus in India as a form of jihad. It went on to cite the examples of rivalries between groups of street vendors that turned violent after “YouTube-fueled campaigns singled out Muslim merchants for attack.”

The report addresses the difficulties faced by the platform in monitoring and taking action against such activity. Prateek Waghre, a researcher with the Technology and Policy Program at the Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution told the NYU Stern Center, “You will rarely find a YouTube content creator who sticks to just one language, or especially just English. They are most likely switching between at least English, Hindi, probably a bunch of other languages as well.”

Recommendations by NYU Stern Center:

1.     Disclose more information about how the platform works

2.     Facilitate greater access to data that researchers need to study YouTube

3.     Expand and improve human review of potential harmful content

4.     Invest more in relationships with civil society and news organisations

In CJP’s one of many steps to counter online hate, a complaint was made to YouTube, urging them to take action against hateful content by acting on their Community Guidelines to counter Hate Speech on their platform. As a set of examples, CJP listed some hateful content on the platform which had not been taken down by them despite being flagged. Later, YouTube apprised CJP that they have taken cognisance of the accounts that were reported and suspended the flagged videos violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines regarding Hate Speech.

The report may be viewed here: 

Related:

Muslim women threatened with sexual assault: How does the law defend them?
CJP’s next step in countering Online Hate: YouTube urged to take action against hateful content
CJP Impact: YouTube responds to CJP's complaint, takes down hate filled content!
CJP approaches Twitter over sexually violent content against Muslim women
CJP approaches Twitter over sexually violent content against Muslim women
CJP Impact: Twitter suspends 21 accounts threatening Muslim women with sexual violence
Facebook refuses to act on CJP’s complaints against Ragini Tiwari

Most troubling abuse of YouTube in India involves targeting of Muslims by backers of the BJP: NYU Stern Report

India with 450 million users is the platform’s biggest market, and content creators have been fuelling Islamophobia, finds the report

NYU Stern CentreImage Courtesy: thewire.in

A recent report by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights has revealed how YouTube “serves as a venue for political disinformation, public health myths, and incitement of violence.”

India is the platform’s biggest market with more than 450 million users. But unfortunately a large number of these users are engaged in targeting of Muslims, the content creators allegedly being backers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other right-leaning Hindu nationalist groups, according to the report titled A Platform Weaponized: How YouTube Spreads Harmful Content-And What Can Be Done About It.

The report cites a 2021 report titled How Anti-Muslim Content Spreads on YouTube in India, where a non-profit organization called First Draft News which counters hate and misinformation, identified a number of Islamophobic channels, “each with more than a million subscribers that demean Muslims and incite violence against them.”

Moreover, the report focuses on the online attacks on women “often blend with anti-Muslim themes in India” who are made subject to grave threats often delivered as selfie videos. The fact that social media can be toxic to and for all women, regardless of religion, region, political affiliation and even nationality, is indisputable. But in India, Muslim women in particular are subject to an orchestrated right-wing campaign, abused for both their gender and their religion. This is made worse with the tacit complicity of the government of the day that harbours a hate-filled ideology and holds undisputed sway and power.

The report even addressed last year’s incident where nearly 80 Muslim women were targeted and put up “for sale” on the S**li Deals app, and in January 2022, where over 100 Muslim women were targeted using the B**li Bai app. Both B**li and S**li are sexually derogatory words used to target Muslim women. In both cases, there was no real sale of any kind – the purpose was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women by sharing their personal images, and also to harass them by sharing their personal information.

Moreover, Karen Rebelo, an investigative reporter told the NYU Stern Center how social media has “diluted the quality of journalism and allowed the rise of propaganda to masquerade as news.” Speaking of Hindutva hostility towards Muslims in India, the report names news outlets such as News Nation, ABP News and Zee News with millions of subscribers on YouTube who are actively involved in spreading “anti-Muslim animus” on a daily basis and even amplifying “misleading and inflammatory claims” against Muslims specially during the pandemic. 

For instance, it stated how the viral videos on the platform helped spread a conspiracy theory that Muslims purposefully spread coronavirus in India as a form of jihad. It went on to cite the examples of rivalries between groups of street vendors that turned violent after “YouTube-fueled campaigns singled out Muslim merchants for attack.”

The report addresses the difficulties faced by the platform in monitoring and taking action against such activity. Prateek Waghre, a researcher with the Technology and Policy Program at the Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution told the NYU Stern Center, “You will rarely find a YouTube content creator who sticks to just one language, or especially just English. They are most likely switching between at least English, Hindi, probably a bunch of other languages as well.”

Recommendations by NYU Stern Center:

1.     Disclose more information about how the platform works

2.     Facilitate greater access to data that researchers need to study YouTube

3.     Expand and improve human review of potential harmful content

4.     Invest more in relationships with civil society and news organisations

In CJP’s one of many steps to counter online hate, a complaint was made to YouTube, urging them to take action against hateful content by acting on their Community Guidelines to counter Hate Speech on their platform. As a set of examples, CJP listed some hateful content on the platform which had not been taken down by them despite being flagged. Later, YouTube apprised CJP that they have taken cognisance of the accounts that were reported and suspended the flagged videos violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines regarding Hate Speech.

The report may be viewed here: 

Related:

Muslim women threatened with sexual assault: How does the law defend them?
CJP’s next step in countering Online Hate: YouTube urged to take action against hateful content
CJP Impact: YouTube responds to CJP's complaint, takes down hate filled content!
CJP approaches Twitter over sexually violent content against Muslim women
CJP approaches Twitter over sexually violent content against Muslim women
CJP Impact: Twitter suspends 21 accounts threatening Muslim women with sexual violence
Facebook refuses to act on CJP’s complaints against Ragini Tiwari

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