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Does Twitter India Suffer From Caste Bias?

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Two decades back, the sector of Information Technology in India opened the doors of hope and high aspirations. A decade ago, India saw a crescendo in the boom of the social media sector. It was very much important. It is very much needed. It should continue to be so.

But lately, there has been an observation that social media networking platforms grimace well! The case of Facebook and BJP gelling together, via Ankhi Das, former Facebook top employee, is setting a perilous precedent for the ecosystem. facebook

What Facebook has done in India in the past is politically unforgiven and socially forgettable, but it was not anticipated that it can go to any heights to protect its business. Well, that’s the attitude of capitalism and its cronies for determining their altitude. A social media platform like Facebook has not only apologized for its error but it has stimulated the existence of hate speech that continues to culturally attack the vulnerable communities online, including women and queer.

The buck does not stop at the Facebook and Ankhi Das episode.

Twitter’s (Exclusionary) Verification Policy

Twitter in India has altogether a different policy here, to deal with the verification policy, compared to what it can do to hate speech proponents like Donald Trump in the USA. Twitter stopped the verification process in the year 2017 and it’s intending to commence the operation next week with few more rules that may benefit the ones who are able to proselyte their caste capital into modern capital than the ones who are belonging to lower-caste communities in India.

Nitin Meshram, an advocate of the Supreme Court of India and also a strong voice in the Ambedkarite community, along with Prof Dilip Mandal, has figured out that Twitter in India is inured and infected with caste bias.

In November 2019, Nitin and many other Ambedkarite personalities ran a campaign #CasteistTwitter and #JaiBhimTwitter to divulge the caste bias of Twitter. The digital movement was intended to divulge how Twitter runs soft on hate peddlers, while it continues to limit the outreach and verification of eligible Bahujan handles. It commenced with Prof Dilip’s account being restricted when he is famously known for anti-caste consciousness on Twitter.

Nitin Meshram stated that “Twitter in India is discriminating against SC-ST-OBC activists in suspending & verifying their accounts. It lacks uniform rules & therefore, #CasteistTwitter suppress Dalit, OBC, & Tribal activists by unequal reference to its rules.”

In an interview with NewsClick in November 2019, Prof Dilip Mandal stated that “Twitter India should explain what criteria it adopts while clearing blue tick verification for Twitter handles. Prakash Ambedkar, a political leader with over 40 K followers; and PA Ranjit, director of Tamil blockbuster movies – Kabali and Kala who has over 8 lakh followers are not verified. However, Jay Shah, son of Home Minister Amit Shah, who has mere 27 followers, has a verified account.”

It is quite astonishing to note that Jay Shah could manage to verify his account in October 2019, on joining Twitter, when the verification process was suspended (since 2017) by Twitter till 2021. In another realm, Mohan Bhagwat, RSS chief, joined Twitter in May 2019 with his account getting verified.

Mohan has not tweeted anything yet. He is an inactive Twitterati and yet Twitter has not locked his account for passivity. If this is not the caste privilege at play, then what it is?

Prof Dilip Mandal alleged that Twitter is the new Brahmanvaad. The bluetick is janeu (sacred thread worn by the Brhamins) which divides the society into upper-caste and lower-caste. His account was later verified but he condemned Twitter for doing so. He is keeping up the good fight against the caste bias of Twitter India.

Hansraj Meena, founder of the Tribal Army, voiced that “Twitter India has leaned more towards right-wing ideology. It is suppressing the voice of Muslims, SC and ST.”

This statement can be easily resonated with if you’d experience in any of your tweeting experiences that many verified profiles of the Hindutva clan promoting hate and abhorrence are still safe and unsuspended. It’s high time for Twitter to have Bahujan representation/face too in its organization, otherwise, it will continue to have standpoint domination from upper-caste individuals. Diversity is important too.

The case of Mahima Kaul, former public policy director of Twitter India, can be attributed here. She is popularly known for blocking anti-Modi or anti-Hindutva Twitter handles, while she was holding the organizational position at Twitter then. What does this pattern tell us?

Nitin and many other Ambedkarite voices have commenced a new campaign “People v/s Twitter” to make Twitter’s policy on verification, community standards and other policies ‘more transparent and also accountable’. It is also an initiative to bridge the digital gap and enrich the scope of digital advocacy in a ‘democratic’ way.

One of the features of this movement is to infuse an ‘egalitarian’ approach in the social media sphere and that is by “verifying all the Twitter accounts or no verification of any Twitter account”. This should also diminish fake accounts which are mainly administered by some political parties’ IT cell. This movement is not limited to Twitter only.

The time is quite challenging for Twitter when recently its CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey has donated Rs 20 crore to SEWA, an RSS social initiative, for fighting covid-19 cases in India. Little is this Jack aware that RSS is known for misusing its power and playing casteism in its shakhas?

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