With US’s microblogging platform Twitter under fire for non-compliance with India’s laws, the Indian government is turning to indigenous Koo for communications. The precedence has been set by the new IT minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw. He opened a new Koo account and announced a review of social media firms’ compliance with strict new rules.
A government official said the idea is to create an alternative to Twitter and this sentiment has been shared by ministers and members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as well. The microblogging platform and the BJP government haven’t been eye-to-eye ever since the NCR, CAA protests, Delhi riots and the farmers protests in 2020. In February 2021, the Centre demanded Twitter to take down hundreds of accounts featuring criticism of the state in connection with the large-scale farmer protests that had been on since November 2020.
Initially, Twitter had refused, but relented after its India employees were threatened with prison time. The US company in a blog post had said “we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law.” The Delhi Police, on May 24, raided Twitter’s offices after it labeled the ruling party’s propaganda as “manipulated media”. Then on June 16, the Uttar Pradesh police went to question India’s Twitter head for allowing an elderly Muslim man’s hate crime allegations to be published on the platform. It has to be noted that the man had also used other social media platforms, but only Twitter came in the limelight. Despite taking the popular platform head on, the government has often used Twitter to make important announcements. Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 69.8 million Twitter followers.
Now, with the government promoting Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat, the centre embracing Koo, doesn’t come as a surprise. The indigenous platform accommodates content in eight Indian languages, and its download surged 10-fold in two days to more than three million. Subscriber numbers for the 16-month old platform have grown to seven million.
Ministers and governments departments are following suite. The disaster management arm of UP, as per Reuters, has pinned a tweet telling its 21,900 followers to join Koo, where it has 922 followers, for exclusive and latest updates. Mayank Bidawatka, Co-founder, Koo, in an interview said it’s just a matter of few month months and pretty much everyone will be on Koo.