On February 9, Piyush Goyal, a top minister in the Indian government, used his official Twitter account to extend an invitation to join him on Koo, an Indian micro-blogging site.
Goyal tweeted, “I am now on Koo. Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for real-time, exciting and exclusive updates. Let us exchange our thoughts and ideas on Koo. Mobile phone Join me: https://kooapp.com/profile/
I am now on Koo.
Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for real-time, exciting and exclusive updates.
Let us exchange our thoughts and ideas on Koo.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) February 9, 2021
Goyal holds several important portfolios as the Minister of Railways; Commerce & Industry; Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution, in the Government of India. He is also the Deputy leader of the Rajya Sabha. An endorsement from such a senior government minister sends a serious message… India was considering replacing Twitter with an indigenously developed counterpart, much like how China used Weibo.
Already many other ministers, BJP leaders and their social media supporters have expressed that they will be switching to the Koo app. According to a News18 report, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, MPs Tejasvi Surya, Shobha Karandlaje and government think tank NITI Ayog are already on Koo. Also, some government handles including MeitY, MyGov, Digital India, India Post, National Informatics Centre (NIC), National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), Common Services Centre, UMANG app, Digi Locker, National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) among others are also on Koo. Cricketers like Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble as well as spiritual leader Sadhguru are also on Koo.
All about Koo
Koo was launched in March 2020. It won the GoI’s Atmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge. Koo was co-founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidwatka. Radhakrishna is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) and is the CEO of Koo. According to the Indian Express, Koo’s investors include Blume Ventures, Kalaari Capital, Accel Partners India as well as former Infosys CEO Mohandas Pai’s 3one4 Capital. Koo’s parent company Bombinate Technologies had previously launched Vokal, an Indian counterpart of Quora.
However, it has emerged recently that Koo has a Chinese investor named Shunwei Capital, reports MoneyControl.com. ButKoo CEO Radhakrishna told the business news portal, “Shunwei had invested in the earlier brand Vokal. We have pivoted our business and focused on Koo, they are on their way out. They are being bought out by other people. We are a truly Atmanirbhar Bharat app.” He added, “Shunwei Capital is a very small stakeholder in the company right now which will get bought out. They are in the process of exiting.”
It has not gone unnoticed that the push to move to Koo comes at a time when GoI and Twitter have been at virtual loggerheads over the suspension and reinstatement of 250 Twitter accounts that made posts about the ongoing nationwide Farmers’ Protest.
SabrangIndia had previously reported that Kisan Ekta Morcha (KEM,) the official handle of the farmers’ struggle, The Caravan and multiple media personnel lost access to their Twitter accounts on February 1, 2021 “in response to a legal demand.” However, these accounts were then reinstated by Twitter attracting the wrath of the Indian government.
On February 3, the central government issued a notice to Twitter for “unilaterally” unblocking over 250 such accounts despite being given specific orders by the Government to block them.
Twitter stated on February 10, 2021 that it would not block accounts of journalists, activists and politicians because such an action would “violate fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”
“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,” Twitter had said in a blog post on Wednesday morning.
A virtual meeting was held between Secretary Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy), Government of India and a team from Twitter comprising Monique Meche, Vice President Global Public Policy and Jim Baker Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said, “Secretary expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land.”
The statement further said, “Secretary took up the issue of using a hashtag on ‘farmer genocide’ with Twitter executives and expressed strong displeasure on the way Twitter acted after an emergency order was issued to remove this hashtag and content related to that. Spreading misinformation using an incendiary and baseless hashtag referring to ‘farmer genocide’ at a time when such irresponsible content can provoke and inflame the situation is neither journalistic freedom nor freedom of expression as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Despite the attention of Twitter being drawn to such content by the Government through a lawful process, the platform allowed the content with this hashtag to continue, which was extremely unfortunate.”
It went on to say, “Secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment in the two incidents. A deep sense of disappointment at seeing Twitter side not with ‘freedom of expression’ but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order, was conveyed to the Twitter representative.”
News18 now reports that top executives of Twitter India could now be arrested for failure to comply with GoI’s request.
Twitterati react to Koo
The push to switch to Koo drew interesting responses from both sides of the political divide. While trolls demanded that Twitter be banned altogether, many who had been targeted by trolls felt relieved hoping all that Twitter will be purged of all haters.
Political commentator and Congress spokesperson Salman Soz tweeted, “I want to congratulate PM @narendramodi for inspiring a clean up of Twitter. I hear that all his followers are moving to #kooapp. I encourage all those who love Modi ji to move to Koo. It is the mother of all win-wins.”
I want to congratulate PM @narendramodi for inspiring a clean up of Twitter. I hear that all his followers are moving to #kooapp. I encourage all those who love Modi ji to move to Koo. It is the mother of all win-wins.
— Salman Anees Soz (@SalmanSoz) February 11, 2021
Meanwhile actor Swara Bhaskar who has been trolled mercilessly on Twitter, bid her haters goodbye, “My loving farewell to all the trolls, Bhakt -mandali and nafrati chintus flocking to #Koo #kooapp Miss me guys!”
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) February 11, 2021
Fellow actor and self-proclaimed “Right-wing role model” Kangana Ranaut, whose account had been temporarily blocked by Twitter recently, supported a ban on Twitter, “Agree, these first world country people and their societies or political issues are very different than ours, our pseudo elite minority identifies with them and social media only echos (sic) of first world problems. We must make them more accessible to us Indians and our issues.”
Agree, these first world country people and their societies or political issues are very different than ours, our pseudo elite minority identifies with them and social media only echos of first world problems.We must make them more accessible to us Indians and our issues #kooapp https://t.co/OM7kxx0iaF
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) February 10, 2021