Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has kicked up a social media storm in India after a picture of him with a placard saying “smash Brahminical patriarchy”, referring to the highest Hindu caste, went viral in one of the company’s fastest-growing markets.
The picture, posted on Twitter on Sunday by a journalist who was part of a group of women journalists, activists, writers whom Dorsey met during a visit to India last week, had him clutching a poster of a woman holding up a banner with the line that has offended many Indians.
Several prominent Indians, including T.V. Mohandas Pai, a former finance chief of software exporter Infosys, accused Dorsey of “hate mongering” against Brahmins.
“Tomorrow if @jack is given a poster with anti-Semitic messages in a meeting, will his team allow him to hold it up?” Pai tweeted. “Why is that any different? Inciting hate against any community is wrong.”
Twitter India said the poster was handed to Dorsey by a Dalit activist - Dalits are at the bottom of the social hierarchy in Hinduism - when it hosted a closed-door discussion with a group of women to know more about their experience using Twitter.
It added the poster was a “tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world”.
Late on Monday, Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy and trust and safety lead at Twitter who accompanied Dorsey to India, apologised.
“I’m very sorry for this. It’s not reflective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us - we should have been more thoughtful,” she said in a tweet. “Twitter strives to be an impartial platform for all. We failed to do that here & we must do better to serve our customers in India.”
Twitter, whose monthly active users globally averaged 326 million in the July-September quarter, does not disclose the number of its users in India but its executives have said that the country was one of its fastest growing.
Its use is only expected to grow in India in the coming months as political parties in the country of 1.3 billion try to expand their reach to voters ahead of a general election due by May.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with 44.4 million followers, is one of its biggest supporters.
“I enjoy being on this medium, where I’ve made great friends and see every day the creativity of people,” Modi tweeted last week after meeting Dorsey in New Delhi.