Twitter caught in caste controversy, users demand resignation of Twitter India head and a relook of user policy

Social media platform Twitter has been accused of suppressing individuals from some communities and going soft on users spreading hate messages.

In a recent controversy that broke out on popular social media platform Twitter, Dilip Mandal, senior journalist and Consulting Editor with The Print, voiced his concern over how Twitter denied the ‘blue tick’ verification of people from lower cast and Dalit background. This resulted in call-outs against the platform, with posts bearing hashtags like #CasteistTwitter, #JaiBhimTwitter and #SackManishMaheswari trending.

It began on November 2, when #SackManishMaheshwari (who is the MD, Twitter India) started trending, with Twitter accused of taking action against a section of users but remaining silent on hate-peddlers. Dilip, who raised his concerns on the issue, soon found his account restricted.

A Twitter user Nitin Meshram, an advocate of the Supreme Court, said,

“Blue check marks on @Twitter have become a caste pride in India. It’s a matter of caste divide, assertion & privilege. If you are other than Sc-St-OBC, you would easily get it but if you are Sc-St-OBC, you won’t get it due to #ManusmrutiTwitterRules.”

According to News Bits, one of the main reasons for the initial controversy, as cited by users, was that the social media platform wasn’t curbing hate speech and was going soft on users who violated the company’s norms.

Its actions involving the marginalised sections of the Indian society like Dalits, Muslims, backward castes, tribals, and users from these groups were much harsher, said users. These opinions had fuelled the creation of #CasteistTwitter, which was trending among the top hashtags in no time over the last weekend, November 2.

However, the hashtag was removed from the trending list by the social media giant within no time.

Dilip wrote,

“Make rules of verification and blue tick. What qualification you need to get one, Graduate, or does one require a Ph.D. Which post is required? How many followers are needed? How many books should be authored? Need a lawyer, a farmer, a doctor. Want a man, want a bull. Make some rules. Verify everyone on one rule. Do not be racist. #VerifySCSTOBCMinority.”

Users also pointed out that certain public accounts that had made hateful statements in the past were still verified and given a blue tick by Twitter. A demand for a social media audit of Twitter India was also voiced. A number of users also levelled the charge that there was a lack of representation of several major communities and caste groups in the company’s workforce and urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to intervene.

On the same note, around 250 well-known activists, journalists, and educationalists, among others, issued a statement against Twitter India, urging the social media platform to stop giving space for expressions of hate.

According to The Print, the statement read,

“Twitter must act tough against people with a malafide intention to target peace and harmony in the country by tweeting inflammatory stuff. Such messages, particularly, open calls for discrimination and boycott against any group or community.

“…Hashtags such as Musalmanon ka sampoorn bahishkar (complete boycott of Muslims), violate the principles enshrined in Indian Constitution, (and) must not be allowed on Twitter.

“Despite reporting the accounts, they remain active…many of the hate-peddlers have been found sharing content that was found fake by independent fact-checkers and government agencies, yet their accounts remain active.

“Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t seem interested in taking action against such messages and hate speech though it causes fissures in society and propaganda on social media has led to violence-mob attacks.”

(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)