Centre for Internet & Society
Online Gender Based Violence on Short Form Video Platforms

Online Gender Based Violence on Short Form Video Platforms

An inquiry into platform policies and safeguards. This report explores how short-form video platforms in India address online gender based violence (oGBV) by analysing their terms of service, community guidelines (CG), and reporting workflows.

Executive Summary

Being a woman or from a gender minority online is a harrowing experience. From early instances of sexual harassment in text-based internet communities in the 1990s, to apps such as Bulli Bai, and harassment in the Metaverse more recently, online gender-based violence (oGBV) is a pervasive problem, affecting 23 per cent of women globally. In India, nearly half of the women surveyed reported facing online harassment, leading to reduced online participation. Other consequences of oGBV include mental health issues, withdrawal from online spaces, and, offline violence.

In 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women & girls, and its causes and consequences recognised online violence against women and the need to counter it, defining it as "any act of gender-based violence against women that is committed, assisted or aggravated in part or fully by the use of ICT, such as  mobile phones and smartphones, the Internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately."

This report explores how short-form video platforms in India address oGBV by analysing their terms of service, community guidelines (CG), and reporting workflows. Recognising the role of intermediaries is crucial in understanding challenges and developing effective strategies to combat oGBV. We selected three Indian video-sharing platforms based on their download numbers, as well as Instagram reels (given their popularity in India).

The CG and terms of use of these platforms were measures against a typology of oGBV we put together based on a literature review.

The guidelines of the platforms included in the study demonstrated minimal recognition of the gendered effects of potential behaviours related to oGBV. None of the platforms had a separate policy or section dedicated to oGBV, and the policies were found to be ambiguous at several points, leaving them open to interpretation by moderators. Josh was particularly noted to have extremely poor coverage overall. Certain forms of oGBV, such as harassment, non-consensual information sharing, and extortion, were addressed to a slightly higher degree in the guidelines of Instagram, Moj, and Roposo. Some exemplary aspects are highlighted in our findings section. However, other forms, such as attacks on communication channels, omissions by regulatory actors, surveillance and stalking, and online domestic violence found little to no mention across policies, despite the likelihood of these issues manifesting offline as well. Further, policy provisions failed to address the needs of gender minorities. Reporting mechanisms were found to be lacking or inconsistent, and failed to consider the networked nature of harassment.

The harms of gendered violence are well-known and documented. The lack of clarity on implementation and policy is no longer an oversight but an active choice to disregard users.


Co-authors: Divyansha Sehgal and Lakshmi T. Nambiar
Conceptualisation: Ambika Tandon, Torsha Sarkar
Review: Amrita Sengupta and Divyank Katira
Research Assistance: Cheshta Arora
Design: Anagha Musalgaonkar

The report can be downloaded here.
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