In the morning of 09 January 2021, every social media platform was buzzing with activity, the usual mix of celebration, outrage and a bit of shock. Twitter had just permanently suspended the account of sitting US President and supposedly the most powerful person on the planet, Donald J Trump. This was followed by similar actions by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Many Trump supporting SM handles also faced the wrath of the Silicon Valley Big Tech Companies. Google and Apple went so far as to ban an entire social media platform called Parler from their respective Play and App stores.
In US, those on the left celebrated this as a much delayed but very welcome development and those on the Right outraged against this as fascism and second coming of Goebbels. In India, the leftist joined their American comrades in applauding the actions of the bourgeois corporations and the confused lot, i.e. those who call themselves the Right Wing, were worried contemplating what this could mean for the ability of the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to communicate with them directly. Like on many other similar occasions in the past, several patriotic Twitter users bemoaned the absence of a home grown, nationalistic social media alternative where they could have migrated en-masse and taught the fascists from California a befitting lesson. Watching this tragicomedy unfold on my timeline this morning, I was reminded of a similar bout of collective wailing that the Indian RW went through a couple of months back.
There was an account on Twitter called TrueIndology that is quite popular among the NLW folks (non-Left Wing). This anonymous handle was known to counter the propaganda, especially the anti-Hindu messaging, of the Leftists on the platform using information from published literature. Naturally, the establishment and their media proxies used to constantly report this handle and the Silicon Valley radicals happily obliged their Indian comrades to suspend the handle. The handle was restored after some time, or TrueIndology opened a new account, and the cycle used to start over again. A side show usually accompanied this suspension-restoration cycle; that of TrueIndology’s fans lamenting Twitter’s leftist bias and wishing for an alternative platform where their superstar could go about his activities in peace.
What the Indian RW-ers, including the senior leaders, MPs and social media czar of the ruling party, seem to have not figured out in all these years of complaining about the political agenda of Silicon Valley big tech, however, is an alternative, unbiased platform of their liking. It is not as if there were no options that could have been nurtured to rival the establishment social media platforms. But the preferred option seems to be to sit around complaining about Twitter’s bias, on Twitter.
In a free market, the only way to force a business to pay attention to its customers is by disrupting it’s monopoly and creating competition. If you don’t like the service a business provides, move to an alternative one. I have often observed a certain type of attitude among Indians, with frustration. Let’s say there is a private establishment that provides quality service to address a need among consumers by creating its own niche and through its own processes. It acquires popularity and reaches a certain level of penetration in the public. Then the same people who enjoyed and appreciated the services start complaining and demand the government to implement price caps and other sundry regulations that will not only stop the business from growing but even put it’s existence in doubt.
If there was something lacking in the service provided by the business or if someone thinks the same quality of service could be provided at a lower cost or more effectively, instead of creating an alternative competitor, our basic, and only, instinct is to demand that the established business model be bent to suit our demands. This is how we have scared away anyone and everyone who wants to invest their money or effort or ideas in our country. And then we sit around moping about how countries like Israel or China or South Korea, that became independent around the same time as India, have marched far ahead of us.
This is exactly what’s been happening in social media space too. Instead of figuring out alternatives to the politically biased big tech, people want them to change or that government intervene to regulate or even ban them. There are several other platforms, some of them even developed by Indian developers, that can be supported. Some platforms like IndiToot or Gutrgoo were shutdown for lack of adoption by the consumers. These were not in any way inferior to platforms like Twitter or Facebook but were defeated by our herd-like attitude of loving everything imported and treating anything home-grown like shit. And here we are crying that Twitter is not fair. There are still some options left and before they too are dead, I plead you dear reader, at least try them out and explore if they are worth your time and bandwidth.
There is the Koo app which was one of the winners in the digital India Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Innovate Challenge conducted by Government of India. It is almost like Twitter but in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. The Elyments app was launched with the inspiration from spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar by his disciples and aspires to be an alternative to Facebook. Opined is a platform for sharing opinions in the form of short messages, long form articles, polls, etc. Wylo app is focused on sharing information through short texts, pictures, articles, polls etc on different areas of interest like sports, fitness, politics, food, etc. These are only a few Indian platforms that I had tried out. There might be others offering similar or different or better features. If you know any such, leave a comment below.
The bottom line is this. Sitting around and complaining that things are not going our way is what incompetent or inept- loser do. That cannot be the attitude of those who claim to agitate in the defence of a 7000 year old civilization. The least we can contribute is a bit of time and bandwidth.