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".