Twitter is quickly losing its brilliance as a communication tool favored by many Indian government departments and ministers who are keen to promote local rival Koo, and the American company is under fire for failing to comply with Indian laws.
The most striking example is Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s new IT minister. After taking office this month, he opened a new Koo account and soon announced a review of social media companies’ compliance with strict new regulations-the information was not released to his 258,000 Twitter followers.
“The idea is to create an alternative to Twitter,” said a government official in charge of media relations, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to comment on the matter.
A senior person in the party’s IT department told Reuters that other ministers and members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also have this sentiment, and they are annoyed by Twitter, which they consider provocative.
The nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi first expressed dissatisfaction with the American company in February when the company refused to comply fully with an order to delete accounts accused of spreading misinformation about farmers’ protests And posts, this is the biggest manifestation of dissent facing the government. Twitter argued that some of the requests did not comply with Indian law.
The dispute led some ministers to promote Koo. Unlike Twitter, Koo also contains content in eight Indian languages, and its downloads soared 10 times in two days to more than 3 million. The number of subscribers to this 16-month-old platform has increased to 7 million.
Twitter has approximately 17.5 million users in India, but the friction with the government has escalated, including the failure to install compliance and complaints officials under the new social media rules by the May 25 deadline. It has filled two of the three positions.
It is now the subject of five police investigations in different parts of India, accusing the American company of abusing its platform.
Twitter declined to comment on the use of Koo by the Indian government, but said it worked directly with various ministries and authorities to play a key role in disaster management during the pandemic.
“These institutions and their members seek our strategic advice to leverage the power of Twitter through training, mobilizing resources, and promoting public participation initiatives,” a spokesperson said.
Emphasizing the influence of Twitter is that Modi, who has 69.8 million Twitter followers, has not yet joined Koo, and many government ministers and departments continue to use these two platforms, even if Koo’s news spread first.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology, Prime Minister’s Office and government media departments did not respond to requests for comment. Amit Malviya, head of the IT department of the Bharatiya Janata Party, declined to comment.
From the account of the Ministry of Trade, it can be seen that Koo is becoming more and more attractive. Koo now has 1.2 million followers on Koo, while there are only 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
The state government is taking action. The Disaster Management Department of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, issued a tweet telling its 21,900 followers to join Koo-where there are only 992 followers-for “exclusive and latest updates”.
The cold reception that many authorities now give Twitter is in stark contrast to the past. Modi and the People’s Party used it extensively to establish contact with the public, especially before the 2014 election and diplomacy. In 2018, Modi and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey both smiled when they met in New Delhi. The Indian prime minister tweeted that he had made “good friends” on the platform.
Koo said that although it does not have a specific government outreach plan, Modi’s campaign to promote local businesses is in its favor.
“I think in a few months, you will see almost everyone using Koo,” co-founder Mayank Bidawatka said in an interview.
Technology industry experts believe that Koo will not scale so quickly, but said that Koo’s wider local language coverage will help the company be in a good position in the pursuit of long-term growth.
© Thomson Reuters 2021