Twitter Jack is a consummate hypocrite – R. Jagannathan

Jack Dorsey

R. JagannathanJack Dorsey’s lies need to be called out. At the very least, he is a hypocrite masquerading as a free speech advocate. – R. Jagannathan

One of the advantages of being an American media platform boss is that there will always be enough colonised minds in India who will take your assertions and claims of free speech advocacy at face value. There is no white privilege whiter than the opportunity to lecture us natives on the ideals of free speech.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, under fire from the Indian IT Ministry for letting untrue and incendiary hashtags (#ModiPlansFarmerGenocide) go under the radar, has wrapped himself in the flag of freedom in order to defy the orders of the Indian government to take down certain handles.

It is time to call out Dorsey’s lies and partial lies. In a statement, he said: “We do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”

This statement contains lies, or at best half-truths.

First, India’s free speech laws are not absolute, and have several clauses that allow its curtailment. So, a government which wants to deactivate hashtags that allege that a genocide is being planned cannot be said to be acting outside the broad spirit of the law. Of course, Dorsey can go to the courts to confirm his reading of Indian free speech laws, but prima facie he cannot be right.

Moreover, it is far from certain that an intermediary like Twitter can exercise the same censorship functions as a news publication. If Dorsey does not claim to be a publication, he must comply with the government’s directions before challenging it in court.

Even otherwise, he may be misinformed about Indian law. In India, the government bans some forms of content, such as websites that carry pornography. You can’t also publish wrong maps of India without courting jail. Elsewhere, all this may be waved through as part of free speech or expression, but not in India. So, no, Twitter is not playing by Indian law. That is lie No 1, or half-truth No 1.

Second, Dorsey’s statement suggests that he gives a free pass to politicians and activists, and news media and journalists. What a joke, coming from the man who deplatformed a sitting US President just last month. Either Dorsey believes that Donald Trump does not qualify as a politician, or he believes that he has the right to censor some politicians whom he dislikes. That’s lie No 2.

Third, Dorsey seems to suggest that some categories of users on his platform, including journalists, are special. This is nonsense. Every citizen, whether a journalist or a politician or activist, has the same right to free speech as anyone else. So, if someone is publishing inflammatory material, he can be banned as much as any ordinary citizen doing so.

Last year, in this same month, Twitter blocked my handle (@TheJaggi) for tweeting this: “Hindus should know they are in a long-term civilisational war. Every Hindu must commit to do his bit and fight on till the goal is achieved. Ensuring global peace, diversity and pluralism depends on defeating the ideas propelling predatory, expansionist and imperialist faiths.” Appended to the tweet was a clip from the Doordarshan serial on Chanakya.

Perhaps, it was the word “war” that sparked the ban, and I did withdraw the tweet. But here’s the point: I used war in the same way we talk about war on poverty or illiteracy. The war I was talking about was the one unleashed on Hindus by imperialist and expansionist ideologies, including the Abrahamic religions and Communism. I was calling on Hindus to fight this ideology till it is defeated. It was not a call to violence of any kind.

The question Dorsey needs to ask himself is this: did his censors decide that I am not entitled to free speech rights, or that I am not a journalist, or both? His claim that journalists are special is Lie No 3. He means that only those journalists he agrees with are entitled to the protections granted.

Incidentally, Twitter has ensured that for the last two years, my followership count did not grow. I don’t need favours from Twitter just because I am a journalist, but surely I don’t need to be handicapped by its algorithms either?

In the past, we have seen Dorsey pose with people holding placards saying “Smash Brahminical patriarchy”, but never with people holding placards demanding an end of Islamist or Papal patriarchies. Patriarchy is patriarchy; how is Brahminical patriarchy a special category among patriarchies?

Or is Dorsey keen to indirectly endorse hatred and discrimination against Brahmins? Maybe, he would be okay with the hashtag, #DorseySupportsBrahminGenocide. But when the word Brahmin is often code for Hinduphobia, maybe Dorsey wants to say that #HindusDeserveGenocide.

Dorsey’s lies need to be called out. At the very least, he is a hypocrite masquerading as a free speech advocate. He is nothing of the kind. – Swarajya, 11 February 2021

R. Jagannathan  is the Editorial Director of Swarajya magazine.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey with anti-Hindu Indian feminists holding a placard saying "Smash Brahminical Patriarchy".

3 Responses

  1. Narendra Modi & Jack Dorsey

    Twitter fanning insurrection and defying Indian govt may prompt companies to stop advertising on the platform: Report – OpIndia Staff – OpIndia – 12 February 2021

    In a display of arrogance and high-handedness, Twitter refused to comply with the Indian laws and instead decided to enforce its ‘own rules’. While citing freedom of speech on Wednesday, the micro-blogging site refused to adhere to the government’s directives and block the handles of those individuals inciting and advocating violence under the garb of anti-farm law agitation. This sparked off a spat between the Indian government and the social media giant. However, later the site blocked most of the accounts as asked by the government.

    Amidst the controversy, several companies have been mulling to pull out the plug on advertising on Twitter, according to a report by The Economic Times. Quoting brand experts and advertisers, the report said that while most brands are sitting on the fence at present, watching how the Twitter-government face-off plays out, some of them may pull back ads from the platform in the coming days depending on how the situation evolves.

    According to brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor, brands tend to move away from advertising on platforms that are under threat of any kind. “For every Twitter, there is a Koo waiting in the wings. For the new apps, it is a big opportunity, though they will take some time and traction for the ability to perform with an equal degree of seamlessness as Twitter,” he emphasised.

    As per the ‘fact checkers’, the social media platform has scored a ‘self goal’ by not adhering to the government’s directives of removing Twitter accounts with objectionable content. Interactive Avenues’ Shantanu Sirohi said that brands would pull back advertising from Twitter within a short time and watch how the ongoing spat panned out with the Indian government. He added that companies would not find it difficult to make changes to their advertising budget.

    Global companies have to abide by a country’s laws, say experts founder Saurabh Shukla said, “You have to realise that any global company has to abide by the laws of the country. The problem is that Twitter continued to ignore the problem of misinformation and fake news for so long. They were casual about it. You need specialised domain experts for sifting out sensitive content that may impinge national security which any government will not take lightly.”

    It must be mentioned that Twitter constitutes only 5% of India’s online ad market (₹18000 crores), whereas Google and Facebook make up about 75%. While Twitter reported a 28% rise in income ($1.29 billion) in the last quarter, experts are divided on the impact the ongoing controversy will have on its ad revenue in India.

    Will the ongoing spat impact Twitter’s revenues in India

    According to Amit Tripathi, the managing director at IdeateLabs, only a small fraction of the ad budget is allocated to Twitter. He said that there is no word from any of his client to pull out advertising from the microblogging site. With hashtags such as ‘Koo App’, ‘Ban Twitter India’, ‘Ban Twitter’, ‘Twitter hypocrisy’ and ‘BJP Govt Dictating Twitter’ dominating the social media platform, Zafar Rais associated with Mindshift Interactive informed that his company had extensive discussions with their clients. Despite being allocated the budget for new quarter, they are in a ‘wait and watch’ mode.

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  2. Twitter claims to fight hate speech but has different standards for India – OpIndia Staff – OpIndia – 12 February 2021

    A major controversy has erupted in the country after Twitter disrespected Indian laws by refusing to follow orders passed by an elected government asking them to ban anti-India and pro-Khalistani accounts that incited violence on the platform.

    The Indian government had issued a new notice to social media giant Twitter directing it to block 1,400 accounts from Pakistan peddling Khalistani secessionism during the protests. The misuse of the social media platform for spreading anti-India propaganda, provocative content and misinformation had irked the Union government. The government said hat the said Twitter accounts have the potential to cause a threat to public order.

    However, Twitter had shown its reluctance to comply with the central government’s notice under Section 69A of the IT Act. The social media site has banned only a handful of 1,400 handles, and Twitter said it would not be taking action against any media, journalists, activists, and politicians, citing free speech. Twitter also claimed that they did not believe that the actions they have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law.

    Twitter’s dubious standards had irked the government, who had to warn the tech-giant that its patience was wearing out over the company’s refusal to follow the rules under Section 69A of the IT Act. The Indian government is also mulling action against Twitter officials for failing to comply with Indian laws and regulations and promoting hate speech on its platform.

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