Twitter India in the midst of another caste controversy

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

New Delhi, ¬†After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey found himself in the midst of a controversy following a picture of him holding a placard saying “smash Brahminical patriarchy” went viral during his India visit last November, Twitter India finds itself in the midst of another caste row.

This time Twitter has been accused of discriminating against Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) activists.

In a statement to IANS on Tuesday, a Twitter spokesperson said the platform’s “commitment to inclusion and diversity is fundamental to who we are at Twitter and crucial to the effectiveness of our service.”

“Members of marginalised groups come to Twitter every day to express themselves, shed light on important issues, and join a community of allies,” the spokesperson added.

The row started after the account of senior columnist Dilip C. Mandal got restricted. He later got back the account. But Mandal continued the tirade against Twitter. As others joined him, flurry of tweets followed under #CasteistTwitter, #JaiBhimTwitter and #SackManishMaheswari. Manish Maheshwari is the Twitter India Managing Director.

In his tweets on November 3, Supreme Court lawyer Nitin Meshram summarised the grievances.

“What is our grievance: 1. #Twitter India is discriminating against Sc-St-OBC activists in suspending & verifying their accounts. 2. Twitter lacks uniform rules & therefore, #CasteistTwitter suppress Dalit, OBC, & Tribal activists by unequal reference to its rules.
#JaiBhimTwitter

“3. Without @verified badge, Dalit, OBC, & Tribals are not authentic in digital world. They are vulnerable to fake, fraud, & clone accounts. 4. All stalwarts of Dalits, OBCs, & Tribals are denied @verified badge, whereas, pigmies of other castes have been adorned with blue tick,” he alleged.

Denying the allegations, the Twitter spokesperson said it has “one set of Twitter Rules”.

“To make it clear, we have one set of Twitter Rules and we enforce our policies judiciously and impartially for all individuals — regardless of their political beliefs, religious ideology, professional position or background,” the spokesperson said.

“We have ongoing efforts to provide local market context when developing and enforcing our global policies. We extensively cover gender and religion (including caste) in our trainings, to provide reviewers with the local context they need to evaluate content. Our Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits behavior that targets individuals based on protected categories (including caste),” the spokesperson added.

Some users pointed out that the official accounts of India’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Minority Affairs were not verified on Twitter.

“@TwitterIndia has not even verified Govt of India’s owned handle just because it is minority, tribal and social justice ministry,” said one user.

“As we have publicly stated on a number of occasions, our public verification process is currently closed. However, on a case-by-case basis we do verify people who are active in the public conversation on Twitter,” the Twitter spokesperson said.

“For example, we work with political parties to verify candidates, elected officials, and relevant party officials around the time of elections. We have a dedicated global process for managing these selected verifications,” the statement said, adding that Twitter has worked with various groups across India, including organisations focused on caste, to get feedback on their experience using Twitter.