Small-Scale Tech, Large-Scale Impact by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) maps the incidents of hate on small-scale or alternative social media platforms and examines the link between online hate, misinformation and disinformation across Asia. Following are the key findings from the report.
1- Weaponising Tech for Political Gains
A significant increase has been observed in the incidents of hate on small-scale social media platforms with the rise of political extremism in the region, especially in India and Pakistan. NaMo, the official personalised application of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Narendra Modi and several unofficial apps operating in support of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are key examples of how political parties exploit their social media prowess to execute disinformation campaigns aimed at silencing and harassing opponents, critics and journalists.
2- Perpetuating Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
Women are routinely targeted with derogatory expressions on online platforms, which mirror the rampant culture of abuse and systemic oppression that is prevalent in the region. The bizarre mock auction of prominent Muslim women on the apps called Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai (hosted on GitHub) in 2021 and 2022, respectively, speak volumes about the level of harassment and humiliation women face based on their religious indentities and attacks on minorities in digital avenues of expression. Dating platforms also continue to be unsafe and hostile spaces for women due to the deep-rooted misogyny and lack of effective and timely moderation.
3- Stoking Communal Hatred
Communal violence is another reason hate is thriving unchecked on alternative online platforms. Clubhouse, for instance, suffers from lack of moderation due to its primary audio feature, allowing various forms of hate speech to flourish in the ‘rooms’ conducted on the platform. Regional apps like ShareChat and Helo, and Reddit have also failed to curb hate and incitement to violence against vulnerable minorities in the region.
Most of the cases highlighted in the report were from India. They have contributed significantly towards placing the challenges posed by small-scale tech across the region in global conversations that are largely focused on the Big Tech and their failure to control hate speech. The report reiterates that hate perpetuated on small-scale or lesser-known social media platforms can have equally profound consequences. It calls for hate speech to be acknowledged as a universal challenge in order to counter hate narratives with collective approaches.