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Queer Indians fight for right to safe spaces on Instagram, X, Facebook: ‘abuse is pervasive’

Sexual minorities say it is hard enough being openly gay or transgender in India, and the pressure only mounts in the online world, where advocates blame weak content moderation for an explosion in derogatory feedback.

“In India, the online abuse faced by LGBTQ creators, predominantly on Instagram, is pervasive and includes death threats, hate speech, rape threats, bullying and other forms of harassment,” said Jeet, founder of Yes, We Exist, an LGBTQ advocacy group on Instagram.

The widespread abuse significantly impacts the mental health of LGBTQ people, leading some to self-censor, limit online activities or, in rare cases, consider self-harm, said Jeet, who goes by one name.

While legal protections exist, investigation of complaints is slow and convictions for abuse are scarce, he added.

Even if companies such as Instagram have strongly worded policies on hate speech, LGBTQ advocates say that parent company Meta falls short on enforcement, raising questions about its commitment to minority protection.

“Meta claims to have experienced content moderators who review content in multiple Indian languages, it invests heavily in improving existing systems and processes, and it is committed to keeping all users safe,” Jeet said. “However, these words and commitment seem hollow to queer users on Instagram.”

Yadav dreamed of being a teen influencer – he had amassed about 17,000 followers on Instagram while alive, a number that has since doubled – but the barrage of homophobic cyberbullying his posts provoked may have got too much, according to LGBTQ online content creators and campaigners.

Police have neither issued comment nor revealed the cause of Yadav’s suicide, saying it was still under investigation, while his mother voiced