Tech Harms and Human Rights in India’s 2024 Elections

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During the Indian elections, which lasted from April 19 to June 1, Foundation The London Story – an Indian diaspora-led civil society organization – closely monitoried developments on human rights and tech accountability. With election results now out, we have consolidated key findings into a single report. We hope this report will be helpful for anyone who would like to get a quick but in-depth overview of key concerns related to the Indian elections, with a specific focus on social media corporations’ impact, and how they relate to each other. 

We summarise that researchers from academia and civil society widely observed disinformation and hate speech content on all major social media platforms and messaging apps before and throughout the seven-phase elections. Such content did not just violate platform guidelines, but also Indian laws that govern election campaigning. From consolidating research findings, we show that there was noticeable shift in what kind of harmful content circulated during the elections. Some reports noted a use of deepfakes, but this was not apparently used in large-scale ‘sophisticated’ disinformation campaigns. 

The report also consolidates findings from across reports to assess whether the measures announced by social media corporations, especially Meta, were sufficient to address anticipated harms in the election period. The report particularly assesses to what extent Meta took action on 10 key demands that 38 CSOs had framed. The results are clear: If social media platforms took action, it was sporadic and piece-meal, providing no holistic solution to address their human rights impact. They failed to even enforce the existing rules for content and advertising that apply during non-election times, and did not seem to adjust their steps at any point during the several week election process. Platforms overall showed a blatant disregard for Indian laws and Indian life.