While Twitter Inc is steadily losing its sparkle as a prioritized communications platform for several Indian government departments and ministers, its desi version Koo is all set to rock the app world. Koo is the homegrown rival of the US-grown Twitter Inc. The government officials are eager to promote Koo when the US Company is dismissed for non-compliance with India’s laws. The most prominent example has been India’s new IT minister Mr. Ashwini Vaishnav. Soon after taking the office this month, he opened a new Koo account. Shortly after entering the world of Koo, he announced a review of social media companies’ compliance with India’s regulations.
One government official declared that their sole idea was to create a substitute for Twitter. Another official informed that the same opinion was shared by other members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who are displeased with Twitter’s defiant attitude.
Government VS Twitter
The Modi administration first took offence with the US social media platform in February when the firm denied fully abide by the order to bar accounts and posts accused of infiltrating the society with misinformation. The accused fake news was linked with the farmer protests that have been a historical show of disagreement faced by the government. Twitter desperately argued that several requests were not in accordance with Indian regulations.
The clash reached a boiling stage when the regulations came into effect in May. Since then, the Modi government have been in a public battle with Twitter. Delhi Police raided the office of Twitter on May 24, related to a case where the Modi government appeared to be irritated because the BJP’s propaganda was marked as “manipulated media” by the social media company. Again on June 16, the Uttar Pradesh police went to question the India head of Twitter for allegedly permitting an aged Muslim man’s hate crime statements to be posted on its platform. Surprisingly enough, even though the man’s allegations were posted across several other social media platforms, it was only Twitter that the government blamed.
There were several other times when the government had openly targeted Twitter. The social media company have been charged with allegations claiming it had published an incorrect map, where it showed areas occupied by Pakistan as not part of India. Not only that, it was charged with allegations that child pornography was permitted on the platform. Earlier this month, the government has filed an affidavit in the High Court of Delhi claiming that the US firm had lost the immunity provided to them against legal action as the firm had resisted abiding by the new IT Intermediary guidelines. Twitter has now become the subject of five different police investigations all over the country.
Koo coming into prominence
That dispute made ministers rapidly promote Koo. The homegrown app has several unique features. It has the capability to harbour content in eight Indian languages. This feature when boosted by the government, witnessed a surge of 10-fold in downloads in two days reaching more than 3 million. The 16-month old platform has recorded a subscriber number of 7 million. Twitter has a strong base of 17.5 million users in India.
The friction between the Government and the firm has only escalated. Its failure to meet the deadline for 25 May for appointing compliance and grievance officers ordered under the new social media guidelines has only fueled the fire. It has since appointed two of the three officers.
Twitter resisted commenting on the Indian government’s use of Koo but said that the app directly works with several ministries and authorities, playing a vital role in disaster management during the pandemic. An official of Twitter said that those organisations and their members were looking for their strategic guidance to use the power of Twitter for guiding, organizing resources and promoting public engagement initiatives.
Modi has 69.8 million followers on Twitter and is yet to join Koo while other government ministers have and officials resume to use both the platforms not matter if the news on Koo is circulated first. India’s Ministry of Information Technology, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the government’s media branch refrained from commenting on any controversial subject.
Reach of Koo
Koo is steadily growing and this is evident from the trade ministry’s account which has 1.2 million followers already, compared to Twitter which has 1.3 million followers. Several state governments are taking part in it as well. Uttar Pradesh’s disaster management wing has tweeted to urge people to join Koo. In the tweet, it asked its 21,900 followers to join Koo, for exclusive and latest updates, where it has only 992 followers.
Twitter is now being ignored by several government authorities. This brings a contrast to the past when Modi and his government used the platform extensively to connect with the mass, promote election agendas and maintain diplomacy. In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey visited Delhi and met Modi. Later, Dorsey had tweeted he had made “great friends” on Twitter.
Koo declared that although it had no particular government outreach strategy, the Prime Minister’s drive for promoting local businesses has helped the platform. Mayank Bidawatka, the co-founder of Koo hopes that in a few more months, most of the people will be seen on the homegrown platform. Tech experts, however, don’t see the platform growing that fast. But they consider Koo’s greater language reach as a plus point that will push the company forward as it is chasing after long term growth.
Yellow tick of eminence
In contrast to the blue tick of Twitter, a yellow tick will be provided by Koo to notable accounts that are eligible for verification.
The government of India has simultaneously started promoting the Indian version of WhatsApp known as Sandes App. The government of India has shown extreme protectionist tendencies for the past year. This tendency of the government is increasing day by day, which is feared by several experts might be harmful to the Indian economy in the long run.
Edited by Tanish Sachdev