Will Parag Agrawal be able to improve Twitterâ€™s deteriorating image in India?
In 2021, social media companies and platforms related to them were in public discussion across the country. Once again with appointment of Parag Aggrawal, an Indian-American as Twitter’s CEO the focus on this topic has revived. This time not just Indian but even international media is debating Parag’s appointment. Parag has replaced Jack Dorsey, the ex-CEO of Twitter. This is not the first time Dorsey has resigned, he had done this once before.
Why only Parag Agrawal?
Everyone knows that Facebook and Google are the largest social media companies in the world. On the other hand, Twitter is far behind in the race. Still there are 1.75 crore twitter users in India. If one looks at global figures, it’s clear that after America, Twitter has second highest user base in India. In this situation, it is well understood by Twitter that to plough such a big farm it will be beneficial to employee a native farmer.
At the same time, the other aspect is that Twitter now probably does not want to take any direct fight with the Indian government under any circumstances. Because of the ongoing stand-off with the government from last one year, there is an increasing negative sentiment towards Twitter amongst a large section of India. Keeping aside sentiments of common Indians, Twitter has given prominence to topics which can damage India’s image globally. Whether it was the case of toolkit in farmer protests or blocking accounts of Isckon for voicing about attacks on Hindu temples in Bangladesh. This infact, is considered by right wing nationalists as bias against Hindu community itself. All these issues have forced Indian users to wonder whether this is being done under the influence of a particular ideology. To a large extent, it can be said that an Indian face has been prominently put forward to deal with all these issues.
Where did the controversy begin?
Earlier this year i.e. in the month of February, the Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India implemented the IT Rules 2021. The main purpose of which was to make all the big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook more accountable. The government said that these companies will have to appoint a nodal officer, who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with these rules. Reasoning behind bringing these rules, the Government of India had said that these rules will make these companies more liable for the content published on their platforms. While the government called it an issue related to digital sovereignty, the companies argue that such steps violate fundamental rights of freedom of expression.
This isn’t an issue exclusive to Indian government, big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are caught in such controversies in many countries. Many countries are trying to regulated these platforms or rather we can say that the need for these rules has come to the fore today.
Expectation from the new CEO!
Recently, there was a petition filed in Supreme Court regarding anti-India tweets allegedly spreading violence and hatred on Twitter. The petition has sought a legal draft for the social media platform to examine the advertisements and paid content of hate and sedition available on Twitter.
Ideally the platforms themselves should have removed such content which promotes violent politics and treason. However, Twitter has not done much in this direction. There is no mechanism for curbing fake news. Still, Twitter's system has not proved to be effective in removing hate content. In view of these circumstances, Parag, who was made the CEO of Twitter, will now have the dual responsibility of handling and resolving the issues related to politics.
However, his past interviews suggested that he believes in the platform choosing what it's users should see, what is morally right and promotes healthy discourse. The question is what are the parameters for ‘morally right’ and ‘healthy discourse’. Only time will show if Parag’s appointment will bring any transparency in Twitter’s policies or not.
Ankit Jain is a social media influencer. Known for his interests in politics and policy, his account @IndianTweeter is followed by over 135000 people on Twitter and his tweets have received millions of engagements on the social media platform.