On 29 April, scarcely 24 hours after Facebook briefly blocked briefly blocked The Guardian Facebook blocked hashtag calling for Narendra Modi to resign over pandemic Read more  users from sharing posts tagged #ResignModi, a diktat was issued to content moderators for short video app Moj. A WhatsApp message from a senior contract employee at Moj instructed moderators to remove content perceived as being “against” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Guys, we have to discard this type of content as it is against Modi,” the message read, a screenshot of which was seen by The Ken. The content in question was a video depicting a morphed image of Modi bowing before Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman bin Abdulaziz. Titled “Proud to be a Muslim”, the image was accompanied by the viral YouTube hit, “Miya Bhai”.

Receiving content moderation advisories over WhatsApp wasn’t a first for Moj’s 100-plus contract reviewers. But a directive implying special treatment for an individual was. A spokesperson for Mohalla Tech, the parent firm of Moj, said that Moj does not have any restrictions on posts critical of any government. However, the spokesperson, in an emailed response to questions sent by The Ken, said the platform does remove content it considers “dehumanizing of any individual”. 

Even as global social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter come under scrutiny—both from the government as well as users—Indian social media platforms have largely flown under the radar. The importance of platforms such as Moj and its sister app ShareChat in sharing information and influencing public discourse, however, is no less than their international counterparts.

Expressly catering to India’s regional language user base, ShareChat ShareChat The Ken The ShareChat phenomenon Read more and Moj have racked up a combined monthly active user base of 280 million. This dwarfs the estimated 210 million users Facebook-owned Instagram has in India. ShareChat alone has 160 million monthly active users—over 8X larger than the Indian user base of its investor, Twitter. Despite such a massive content ecosystem, however, little is known about how Mohalla Tech maintains decorum on its platforms.  

Billion dollar club

Mohalla Tech recently raised a US$502 million funding round from marquee investors such as Tiger Global and Lightspeed ventures, which valued it at over US$2 billion

The Ken spoke with insiders at both ShareChat and Moj to understand just how content moderation works on these platforms. These conversations, as well as a review of internal documents and communications, lay bare a process that remains a work-in-progress.

AUTHOR

Munsif Vengattil

Munsif keeps a tab on what Big Tech has been up to in India and all things OTT. He was with Reuters previously, where he wrote investigative pieces on Facebook’s content moderation operations and WhatsApp’s troubles in the run-up to India’s national elections. If you want to talk to Munsif about journalism, tech policy or his love for seekh kebabs, write to him at his first name @the-ken.com.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.