WhiteHatJr and its founder Karan Bajaj have filed a defamation suit of Rs.20 crore against YouTuber and alleged whistle-blower Pradeep Poonia. In a series of allegations made on YouTube and Twitter, Poonia had claimed that WhiteHatJr, the online coding learning platform for kids, is scamming its customers. He also alleged that any voice raised against the company is dealt with bullying and harassment. In an 819-page complaint, Advocate Vasundhara Majithia has asked the court for an urgent hearing claiming Poonia is harassing her client with false allegations. WhiteHatJr was founded by Karan Bajaj in 2018, and ByJu’s had acquired WhiteHatJr in August 2018 for $300 million.
Allegations made by Karan Bajaj
In the complaint [PDF], Bajaj alleged that in early September, Poonia started posting on various social media platforms against WhiteHatJr. The initial posts were about alleged fake claims made by the company about a child codenamed “Wolf Gupta”. In the ads, the company claimed that big technology companies allegedly hired the kid for a handsome salary at the age of 13. However, the later posts were, as per the complaint, went “sinister,” and Poonia allegedly claimed that the company had “murdered” Wolf Gupta.
WhiteHatJr filed takedown notices to social media platforms, and they were removed only to be reuploaded again and again by Poonia. It was alleged that Poonia made wild and baseless allegations against the company. Poonia had recently uploaded a series of tweets and videos in which he demonstrated how WhiteHatJr allegedly silences the voices against them. The company has alleged that Poonia gained access to their Slack (a communication platform used by professionals) account via hacking and put up confidential employee communications, including communications with parents (customers), in the public domain.
According to the complaint, Poonia seeded a fake customer in the WhiteHatJr’s system, who was a minor. She signed up for various trial classes with the company under fraudulent identities. It was alleged that the aim was to harass the teachers and record the classes without prior permission or consent of the teachers and other students in the class. During the sessions, the allegedly fake student asked several questions that had nothing to do with coding. WhiteHatJr claimed that as the entire teaching staff of 11,000 is women, “the allegations of ‘childa abuse’ and equating the Plaintiffs’ acts of teaching children coding with ‘child sexual abuse,” are not legitimate and legally permissible criticism.
WhiteHatJr has alleged that Poonia made several fake accounts to avoid detection. He also boasted that he intends to close down the business. Though Poonia tried to paint himself in a good light, “his intentions have demonstrated that he is willing to go to any lengths towards fulfilling this objective, including displaying private employee information including mobile numbers of Plaintiff No. 2’s employees and hacking into Plaintiff No. 2’s system and concocting baseless claims of threat to his life from the Plaintiffs. The above narrative clearly shows the obvious underlying malice in his actions, which has compelled the Plaintiffs to file the present lawsuit,” the complaint further added.
The allegations against WhiteHatJr
Poonia has been putting up allegations against WhiteHatJr for the last few months. The allegations started with the advertisement the company had put up where they showed a kid as their successful client who has learned coding from them and is now getting hired by tech giants for a handsome salary. Poonia alleged that the kid (Wolf Gupta) they are using in their ads does not exist, and he could not find any official information about any kid being hired at a high salary by any tech giant.
Other social media users had also noticed that the campaign by WhiteHatJr featuring ‘Wolf Gupta’ was questionable, as both the age and the salary he purportedly received kept changing in different ads posted by the company.
The allegations levelled by Poonia led to The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) asking the company to withdraw the ‘misleading’ ads from all platforms. In a LinkedIn post, while talking if kids should learn programing, Bajaj said in the footnote, “Feedback on our marketing needing improvement is well-taken. We’ll do better with it.”
On November 13, Poonia published a series of tweets and posted some videos that recorded the alleged private conversation of the WhiteHarJr employees on Slack. Poonia claimed that the company had silenced the media, and no one is ready to cover the allegations made by him. He alleged that a username Poojawarrior on Twitter claimed to be an employee of WhiteHatJr and was suffering from depression at the workplace. In the alleged tweets, Pooja said Karan Bajaj is forcing teachers to work for 15 hours a day without any weekly off or a holiday.
THREAD— Pradeep Poonia (@whiteHatSnr) November 13, 2020
1. Since Indian media is sold out to #Byjus and #WhiteHatJr let’s expose this scam ourselves and also find out who the real #WolfGupta is.
Q: If your employee tweets at 2am that she is depressed and feeling suicidal, what should a company do?#WhiteHatJrScam #ByjusBubble pic.twitter.com/yMnJ3CuWgr
In the conversation Poonia accessed, the employees of WhiteHatJr bombarded Pooja’s account with complaints and replies from unofficial or fake accounts. As a result, her performance was restricted. Poonia alleged that this was not the first time WhiteHatJr’s employees formed a team to harass someone who had posted anything against the company.
Poonia posted a 30-minute long video in which he allegedly showed the employees’ internal conversation where they were discussing Poonia’s allegations. He showed how they alleged ly take down the videos created by him or other students or YouTubers against the company and systematically remove any negative remarks from the internet. Poonia claimed that they got posts that were only mildly critical about the company and nowhere a threat.
In the video, Poonia allegedly showed how WhiteHatJr works internally on all social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Quora, LinkedIn, and several others, to remove all the negative comments and build a positive bubble its name. He also alleged that when others reported tried to reach out to WhiteHatJr for comments on the allegations against them, the company did not respond but got the posts and videos removed from the platforms.
6. Is it ok if you give an interview at some company and the men taking your interview take a screenshot of your face and share it amongst themselves and pass such sexiest double meaning comments? @realkaranbajaj is this the #WomenEmpowerment u were talking about?#whiteHatJrScam pic.twitter.com/H1QHnkHiiv— Pradeep Poonia (@whiteHatSnr) November 15, 2020
Poonia made a serious allegation of in-house racism in the company as well. In a tweet, he alleged that a girl’s photograph was shared in the group with a title “Chinese aayi” (A Chinese has come), to which someone comments, ”Ek Manchow soup bolna” (ask for a Manchow soup). Poonia raised several concerns like these, where the employees were harassing clients, concerned citizens, and even prospective employees day and night.
Today Poonia posted another screenshot from Slack where WhiteHatJr employees were talking about creating a face detection app and setting up a company, after an ad by the company said that one of their students became CEO of a company by making such an app. When a teacher wanted to find the ‘app created by the student’ as one student wanted to see it, another person replied, ‘Now we will have to create the app’, while another volunteered to make the company.
Coding for kids
In the latest education policy issued by the government of coding will be taught as a mandatory subject for students of Class 6 and above. The announcement gave a platform to several online learning platforms to launch coding courses. It is believed that coding will become the foundation of future generations. We all use computer-based technology extensively, and programming codes are the building blocks of the technology.
Though these companies are pushing their courses via advertisements, there are concerns that pushing kids into coding at an early age will take the playtime away from them. As the parents often see other kids as competition for their children, there is a chance that students who do not have the aptitude for learning depths of coding will be forced to learn it, resulting in an overall downfall in grades that may lead to childhood stress.