NEW DELHI – In early February, politicians from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party started signing up for a social network that was largely unknown.
“I am currently on Koo,” said India Trade Minister posted on Twitter with his nearly 10 million followers. “Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for exclusive, exciting and real-time updates.” According to app analysis firm Sensor Tower, millions of people, most of them BJP supporters, and the Twitter clone became an instant hit, installed by more than 2 million over 10 days. earlier this month, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Timing is no coincidence. For days, the Indian government was locked in a fierce tug-of-war with Twitter, which defied legal orders to grade level accounts criticizing the Hindu nationalist government of India, including accounts of journalists and an investigative news magazine. In response, India’s IT Ministry threatened put Twitter officials in jail. Amid the stalemate, government officials promoted Koo as an unaffected, nationalist alternative to America.
The self-billing website is “Indian voices in Indian languagesAlmost like Twitter, except for “Koos” which is limited to 400 characters, the trending topic is filled with government propaganda and the logo is a yellow bird, not a blue bird.
More worryingly, on Koo, Hindu supremacy comes to fruition, and hate speech against Muslims, India’s largest minority, takes place freely, fueled by some The government’s toughest supporter.
A BJP party official posted a poll asking followers to choose from four defamatory labels for Muslims, including “anti-nationalists” and “jihad dogs.” One person with a biography said he taught at the Indian Institute of Technology, a top engineering college coveted by Silicon Valley graduates, shared a hateful comic strip depicting. Muslim men are members of a bloodthirsty crowd. Some shared conspiracy theories about Muslims spitting on people’s food to spread disease, while others shared news stories of atrocities committed by Islamists in the attempt. the force to destroy an entire religion. One man warned Muslims not to follow him and called them obscenity. “I hate [them], ”One of his posts said.
The global internet debrisand major platforms like Facebook and Twitter against nations and fit suppressing hate speech, nationalist alternatives are being rolled out to organize it, which experts say is a growing trend.
“This content wants to find new homes,” evelyn douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who studies global regulation of online spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News. She says, hate speech, misinformation, harassment, and agitation that mainstream platforms have struggled with for years are especially problematic on platforms like Koo, she said, because the pages the web is less monitored. “Ultimately these problems happen to every platform,” said douek, “but with the proliferation of these alternatives, it is likely that there will be less attention and pressure on them. It also creates the possibility that there will be a global internet with a kind of discourse and completely alternative chats taking place in parallel on national platforms. “
Aprameya Radhakrishna, Koo’s co-founder and CEO, told BuzzFeed News that his website is not intended to be a vehicle for hatred or designed to be a consciousness feedback chamber. system.
“You can’t censor every piece of content on a massive scale,” he said.
Radhakrishna is a Bangalore-based businessman who sold a ride-hailing startup to Ola, India’s Uber rival, in 2015 for $ 200 million. He debuted Koo last March. Earlier this month, when downloads skyrocketed, the company jumped $ 4.1 million from investors, including former Infosys co-founder Mohandas Pai, a strong advocate of the Modi government.
Koo doesn’t have a censorship team, Radhakrishna said. Instead, the platform relies on people to flag content they deem problematic. One group considered only pieces of content that Radhakrishna called “exceptions”.
“Even Facebook and Twitter are still looking for ways to censor,” said Radhakrishna. “We are a 10-month-old company. We are implementing our policies. He added that he believes expressing thoughts is not a problem until it leads to violence.
“We’re not going to act against something just because we feel like it,” he said. “It will be done based on the laws of the land.”
A small section titled “Rules and behavior” is in the app’s terms and conditions that prohibit people from posting content that “violates the privacy of others”, “hate”, “discrimination. ethnicity “or” objectionable ethnicity “or” disdain “.
In spite of comparison for Parler, which positions itself as a conservative alternative to Twitter and Facebook in the US, Radhakrishna asserts that his application is non-political. “We would love anyone who wants to adopt the platform to adopt it,” he said. “Politics is not the only aspect of India. Foundations are made to express and express anything. “
More than a dozen Indian government agencies now in use Koo. Earlier this month, the country’s Ministry of Information Technology, the government agency that threatened Twitter officials with imprisonment, posted a statement on Koo expressing dissatisfaction about Twitter several hours before posting a similar statement. order on Twitter, the platform that chooses to make official announcements.
Inside Twitter, considering India among the fastest-growing global markets, the employees are following Koo closely. “It is definitely on our radar,” an employee who requested anonymity told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t know if it is a threat yet, but we are watching.”
The company’s homegrown origins give it an advantage, Radhakrishna said. “We are an Indian company and we will shape our behavior around the Indian context,” he said. “It will be better than what international companies do because they are also guided by the domestic policies they have set.”
When asked what he meant by the “Indian context”, Radhakrishna said that he did not have any concrete examples. “I’ve never handled any real-life scenarios,” he said.