Anonymity and Anarchy: Understanding Barriers to More Queer-Friendly Social Media

Pragya AgrawalCyber Security, Law

Anonymity and Anarchy: Understanding Barriers to More Queer-Friendly Social Media

In April 2022, we organised our first online conference on “Abuse and Harassment in the Cyber Space: Beyond the Perceptions of Main Stream.” This conference included 12 Instagram Live sessions, and two panel discussions broadcasted live on YouTube. Since then, it has been a long time, but we have strapped on our boots again and are ready to go. Our conference saw two panels of six members, each from different spheres of life with varied experiences. These panel discussions had one common theme: panel members had the courage and bravery to accept their truth and advocate for an inclusive and non-discriminatory society. 

We will publish a series of articles in the next few weeks. These articles convey the outcomes of major talking points discussed in the panel discussions. They cover the thoughts of our esteemed panellists, opinions, newspaper articles, and relevant research. Through this research, we seek to present an understanding of various issues faced by the queer community. Alongside this, we hope to suggest possible recommendations and interventions by different stakeholders to create an inclusive environment for the community. 

The Cyber Blog India welcomes any queries and recommendations from our readers and fellow stakeholders.


Social media has become an exceedingly queer-friendly space. Many people have come out and found their communities and support groups. However, it still remains an avenue with a dark side. From finding their community in magazines, message boards, to finally on social media, the queer community has struggled for acceptance in this country. Social media has made it easier to communicate and find like-minded people on social media. Social media also helps closeted and questioning individuals to learn more about queerness, labels, and other information. 

Significantly, social media has also played a role in the furtherance of the queer movement before and after the Section 377 judgment. This article elaborates on our findings from the conference, highlighting the good and bad sides of social media for queer individuals. It will also cover suggestions for these platforms to facilitate a safer environment.

Anonymity on the Internet

Anonymity on the internet is both a boon and a bane for the queer community. On the one hand, it empowers queer individuals to freely assume their gender identity, sexuality, etc. On the other hand, anonymous online trolls misuse this anonymity to harass and troll people as they don’t have to reveal their identities online. Shruti, one of our panellists, rightly pointed out that anonymity on the internet gives harassers the freedom to threaten, doxx and extort queer individuals. They can undertake such activities without any fear of accountability. She further said that the stakeholders take little to no action to stop anonymous trolls. On reporting such accounts, social media platforms regularly state that such comments do not pass their threshold for account restriction. Consequently, these accounts continue to exist and perpetuate hate against queer individuals. 

Even if anonymity is taken out of the question, queer individuals are targeted every day by people who do not agree with their opinions, identities, or even their little choices. Our panellist, Patruni, mentioned that they were called out multiple times after coming out as bisexual, although choosing to be in a heterosexual relationship. Even their partner was harangued regarding the matter. In fact, these comments led to Patruni losing a couple of performance gigs. Following this, another panellist, Damini, mentioned that one has to be very strong when sharing one’s life online, especially for queer people. There is a vast community of people who wish to put them down. 

What have platforms done till now?

During COVID-19, Instagram released a ‘Wellbeing Guide for LGBTQIA+ Individuals’ on its platform. Additionally, they released various pride-themed stickers and themes to celebrate Pride Month in an isolated online mode. According to Instagram, this guide sought to help the community cope with increasing anxiety and loneliness. However, the platform did not specifically release this guide for India. It collaborated with a US-based NGO in its efforts to create a safe space. However, one must note that merely releasing a Wellbeing Guide does not absolve any platform from its duty to create a safe space.

According to the personal experience of the community members, homophobic comments posted on Instagram Live videos and posts are a pressing concern. One cannot report these comments during the Instagram Live session. As soon as the Live ends, you cannot report the accounts unless you remember their username. Even if a platform takes down one account, the perpetrators can create another account easily. Moreover, panellists also pointed out that the platforms easily detect, flag, and remove English slurs. However, the platform’s detection capabilities fail miserably when a perpetrator uses slurs in other languages.

A user has to manually add these words to the platform’s ‘hidden words’ feature to restrict other users from viewing them on their feed. Platform spokespersons have repeatedly emphasised that they have stringent policies against hate comments and trolling. It seems, though, that their implementation of these policies is lacking.

In the same year (2020), Instagram and Facebook adopted multiple strategies for the provision of a safer online space for the queer community. These strategies include:

  • Blocking all content related to conversion therapy for queer individuals (including general and promotional content).
  • Allowing users to add up to four pronouns on their respective profiles.
  • Implementing the ‘hidden words’ feature to allow users to hide certain words that they consider offensive or inappropriate.

Indian laws indeed need to go a long way to include varied rights for the queer community. At the same time, the platforms also have a responsibility to provide safe spaces for their users. Our panellists offered various suggestions for social media platforms to improve their policies on relevant issues.

Nu pointed out that the reporting button is not accessible. They argued that everyone, including individuals with disabilities, should have easy access to the reporting, investigation, and results on social media platforms.

Damini emphasises the lack of multiple gender options on various platforms. Gazal mentions the need for stringent policies for online safety and harassment with lower thresholds. This will go a long way toward holding offenders accountable. Furthermore, platforms should swiftly delete comments and profiles of repeated offenders.

Shruti put forth a different perspective by asking social media platforms why their grievance redressal mechanism is ineffective. She underlined the time-consuming process of filing and processing complaints. On similar lines, Manak added that social media platforms only inform users about their privacy policies. Then, they leave the users to their own devices. He suggested that we do not just need privacy laws. More scrutiny should be placed on accounts that frequently spread hate online. He advocated for some sort of filter or an automated system to prevent such perpetrators from accessing queer profiles in the first place.

Hiten shared their personal experience as Instagram had restricted them from holding Instagram Lives on their profile. They urged the need for more fair reporting and fact-checking mechanisms. Gautam suggested using tags and labels to caution users while going through posts that harass or perpetuate hate against the queer community.


Social media has significantly helped people discover themselves, find other like-minded people, and express themselves. However, forces still counter those trying to find their space. Some accountability needs to be attached to social media platforms in order to create and foster a safe space for everyone and minimise the spreading of hate and trolling.