All about Twitter's anti-right bias in India

India

13 Feb 2019

Is Twitter really biased against right-wing? Let's dig deep

Come election season and lines have been clearly drawn on social media. Before parties send their cadres on streets, millions are doing the same job on Twitter.

But the right-leaning handles claim their task is far more difficult than their left counterparts and Twitter's algorithm and CEO Jack Dorsey's ideology is to be blamed.

Miffed with its biases, the right-wing activists even approached government.

While many are laughing at the turn of events, it is far from being frivolous.

Row

A brief recap of the controversy

A brief recap of the controversy

It all started after Youth for Social Media Democracy, a pro-right organization, staged a protest outside the Twitter office in Delhi alleging the micro-blogging website was cracking down on right-wing handles.

The protesters claimed Twitter deliberately reduces the reach of their tweets and impressions.

Their prayers were heard and soon Parliamentary panel on Information Technology (IT) summoned top brass of Twitter.

Summons

Parliamentary panel summoned Twitter officials, they didn't turn up

The panel headed by MP Anurag Thakur summoned senior officials on February 11, but they didn't turn up citing 'short notice'.

The next thing they did was summon Jack Dorsey, Twitter's founder. Dorsey has been asked to be present on February 25 and 31 MPs are expected to shoot questions at him.

But this isn't the first time the platform has received such accusations.

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Amid allegations, Twitter's spokesperson says company understands the concerns

"We understand the committee's interest in these issues and the importance of hearing from multiple stakeholders regarding the implications for users of social media in India. We have indicated that we are willing to participate in such a broad hearing process," Twitter's spokesperson said.

Timing

Just ahead of elections, Twitter's actions are making things difficult

Just ahead of elections, Twitter's actions are making things difficult

Now Twitter has nearly 7.65 million daily users in India. Though the number is negligible as compared to Facebook (Zuckerberg's company had 2.27 billion users by 2018), those on Twitter are more politically opinionated.

With elections just a few weeks away, the foot soldiers are doing all they can to swing the public opinion in their party's favor.

Naturally, Twitter's biases pose a problem.

Looking back

Earlier, Trump accused Twitter of acting against conservative voices

As it turns out the allegations on Twitter aren't new. US President Donald Trump accused the website of suppressing conservative voices, more than once. Several Congress members agreed as well.

As a result, Dorsey was summoned but he rejected the allegations. He claimed Democrats were more active on the platform which gave them more impressions than Republicans.

He denied acting against any ideology.

Statement

However, Dorsey's revelations about Twitter's work culture painted different picture

However, Dorsey's revelations about Twitter's work culture painted different picture

But Dorsey's statements and the culture in Twitter are entirely different. By his own admission, Twitter has more left-leaning employees than right.

He added conservatives don't feel safe in "expressing their views".

"They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings, and I don't think that's fair or right," he had said.

Ban

Closer home, right-wing handles have faced Twitter's 'wrath'

A look at how some handles are being treated by Twitter in India explains the biases have found a way into the algorithm.

@SquintNeon, a right inclining handle which uses satire to take on the left, was suspended sparking an outcry.

Similarly, other right-leaning handles have been shadow-banned. While the right has been crying foul, it seems no one is listening to them.

Suggestion

Left wants right to leave Twitter but that's immaterial

Left wants right to leave Twitter but that's immaterial

The flagbearers of the left are amused at right's outrage and even suggested they should leave Twitter if it's so problematic.

While quitting the platform would obviously be easy, what the left refuses to understand is that those on another side of the spectrum are fighting for their rights.

Twitter nitpicking accounts according to its convenience and putting restrictions on them defies the basic ethos of freedom of speech.

Opinion

Can you focus on the real problems, Jack?

The gist of the story is- Dorsey can't keep penalizing people true to a certain ideology and claim the company he established is 'perfect'.

The social media was supposed to be a place where users felt safe, but Twitter has shown otherwise.

Rather than showing its might against one group, Twitter should solve other problems crippling it. How about you pay attention to abusive trolls and bots, Jack?

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Anurag Thakur

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CEO Jack Dorsey

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US President Donald Trump

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