This story can begin anywhere but a reasonable place is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s visit to India in November 2018, just four months preceding the 2019 general elections. Almost immediately, he garnered infamy for two major reasons. One, his now-notorious meeting with the Rogues Gallery of the Indian Far-Left led by the likes of Barkha Dutt and holding the “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy” placard. Two, his meeting with the terminally clueless Rahul Gandhi to discuss the ways to “tackle the menace of fake news.”
It is not a coincidence that among other things, Twitter faced an enormous barrage of criticism for its dirty tricks during the 2019 general elections, a charge that Congress Party’s inhouse newspaper, National Herald tried to rebut. Apart from Twitter, even Facebook was severely condemned for its role in unilaterally taking down hundreds of popular pages supporting the BJP, the RSS, Narendra Modi, and in general, Hindu causes.
Two years later, especially in the run up to and the aftermath of the recently concluded US elections, Twitter has pretty much frankly declared that it is a willing handmaiden of the global Far Left cabal of giant tech companies which have now come under intense scrutiny by the governments of several countries.
And now, the Narendra Modi government sending legal notices to Twitter asking it to explain its perfidious role in spreading pro-Khalistani and other dangerous propaganda, is a welcome move. But it is not enough. As this fine piece by R. Jagannathan argues, it is already time to bring Twitter to heel.
Social media and other tech platforms, especially owned by foreign entities, cannot be allowed to act as arbiters on the internal issues of India. But Twitter’s brazenness especially in light of the so-called farmers “protests” goes much deeper—it has not only allowed itself to be a platform for spreading subversive propaganda against India but has become complicit in it. Its suspension of the account of the CEO of Prasar Bharti is a clear challenge to the Indian government itself. Perhaps this level of newfound confidence on Twitter’s part emanates from its dictatorial, permanent termination of ex-President Donald Trump’s account not to mention how it rigged its algorithms and features during the 2020 American election campaign almost carrying out a personal crusade to defeat Trump.
Twitter’s ongoing skullduggery in openly propagandizing on behalf of breaking India forces under the excuse of “free speech” and promoting dangerous hashtags like “ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” is basically net practice to see how far it can push and how it can strategise before the 2024 general elections. Make no mistake: neither Twitter nor Jack Dorsey is a friend of Narendra Modi or the BJP or the Hindu civilizational ethos. On the contrary, it is fully aligned with the global forces that have launched a final war to annihilate this Indian ethos. Account suspensions and propaganda are mere pellets in this long-term game.
As the aforementioned piece by R. Jagannathan argues, it is already past time to develop an indigenous alternative to Twitter and similar social media platforms. In this light, it is highly commendable that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and its allied organisations have already moved to the Indian social media startup, Koo. However, such a transition away from Twitter by Prime Minister Modi won’t be easy in the short run and has to be done in a well-calibrated fashion. Twitter’s advantage of being the early bird still works in its favour and it understands this leverage very well. On the other side, Narendra Modi’s eventual exit—if done properly—from Twitter will hurt it really bad, draining millions of Indians from the platform in one go. Twitter and social media platforms are nothing without their user base comprising real people who actively use it.
The mild crackdown that the Modi government has initiated against Twitter and his recommended exit is also further justified by the fact that a full week and two notices have elapsed and Twitter has remained obstinate in its defiance of refusing to reply to it.
On the question of building indigenous social media platforms, the Government and the overall business and tech community need to focus on a couple of key elements. Gigantic tech and business outfits in the US were built because the Government allowed them not only to fail but to restart or rejig. The glitzy success story of every Google or Facebook or Twitter are accompanied by hundreds of stories of pathetic failures. This is predicated by the timeless proverb of failure being the stepping stone of success. In direct contrast, failure in India is still largely treated with scorn and viewed as inability, incompetence or the worst of them all, “I told you so!” While this is changing slowly for the better, the change can be accelerated by a fundamental shift in attitude. One indicator in this direction is Modi’s renewed push for startups by announcing a ₹ 1000 crore startup seed fund. However, by itself, the fund can't and won't become successful unless it is driven by attitudinal change.
And then, this is also a good time for social media startups like the aforementioned Koo to ramp up their infrastructure given the surge provided by the IT Ministry.
Even more fundamentally, the reason Twitter grew to the phenomenal extent it did in India (ranked number three) owes to a single word: trust. Indians trusted Twitter to be free, fair, transparent and respectful of the culture, history and traditions of the land. Instead, they got shadow bans, suspensions, breaking-India propaganda and obscene abuses against the Prime Minister. Twitter can’t hide under the ruse of free speech while simultaneously trying to circumvent the sovereign integrity of India.
Among other things, the true meaning of Atma Nirbhar Bharat rests in a home-grown social media platform that recognizes the fact that self-reliance is also self-respect.
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