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    Inside Instagram’s training camp for ethical voices

    Synopsis

    The photo-and-video-sharing platform from Facebook spends 3-4 crore annually to push these initiatives in India as part of its global safety and well-being programme, said people aware of the initiatives. Instagram started these initiatives in several countries, including the US, India, Nepal, Brazil and Australia, three years ago.

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    Compared with social media platforms Twitter and Facebook, Instagram has a relatively larger population of teenagers on board.
    Mumbai: Instagram is working with a group of youth-focused organisations to train teenagers on how to build safe digital spaces to discuss issues like bullying, body-shaming, mental health, loneliness and gender diversity, among other matters that cause stress and anxiety.

    This involves teaching teens how to create catchy content for positive advocacy, giving them advertising budgets to market their posts to the audience in a way that creates impact, and most importantly, preparing them to deal with trolls and hate-mongers online.

    The photo-and-video-sharing platform from Facebook spends 3-4 crore annually to push these initiatives in India as part of its global safety and well-being programme, said people aware of the initiatives. Instagram started these initiatives in several countries, including the US, India, Nepal, Brazil and Australia, three years ago. Around that time, reports of online hate speech leading to violence had begun to surface in different parts of the world.

    Over the last couple of years, hate speech has infiltrated Instagram with users resorting to visual means to present misinformation, even as its parent company, Facebook, and its other sister concern, WhatsApp, came under the scanner for spreading fake news and hate speech. Over the last few weeks, this has culminated to a host of big-league advertisers like Unilever and Starbucks boycotting advertising on Facebook. Late last year, global publications suggested that Instagram is fast becoming the new home for proliferation of racist memes and screenshots of fake news. Organisations working with students said these developments affect teenagers the most. “Because teenagers often don’t have a safe space to process this kind of violence and rage,” said Ruth Mohapatra, communications manager of The YP Foundation, a Delhi-based youth-led organisation.

    Compared with social media platforms Twitter and Facebook, Instagram has a relatively larger population of teenagers on board, second only to TikTok.

    According to data available on Facebook.com/Ads, the parent company’s advertising vertical, there are 21 million users in the 13-19 age group on Instagram in India and approximately 150 million such users globally. “We feel it is our responsibility to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable experience while expressing themselves and sharing their passions and interests,” said Tara Bedi, public policy and community outreach manager, Instagram India.

    Through one of Instagram’s programmes, Counter Speech Fellowship, teenagers from urban India get to interact with politicians — like BJP’s Poonam Mahajan and Shashi Tharoor from the Congress party — and get to run their Instagram accounts for a day to spread their message of positive advocacy to a wider audience. “A lot of issues teenagers face are not on influencers’ or policymakers’ radar. We bridge the gap between the two and guide teenagers on how to bring up their issues like online bullying,” said Aparajita Bharti, cofounder of Young Leaders for Active Citizenship, a Delhi-based organisation that conducts three-month free fellowship for teens.

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