The conversation around the tyranny of big-tech has now taken centre stage after President Donald Trump was suspended from using all social media platforms following the Capitol Hill riots. Alleging that the President of the United States was fomenting violence, several platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even other platforms like PayPal, Pinterest etc banned Trump. The alternate platform that the American right-wing had created called Parler, was also de-platformed by Apple and Google. As the conversation raged, many started talking about an Indian social media platform called Tooter, urging fellow citizens to join the platform to avoid big-tech tyranny.
Mr Nanda, who is evidently the CEO of Tooter took to Twitter and urged people to join Tooter.
We weren’t colonized by the british in a day. So how did it happen? They came to Bharat for business in early 1600s but their rule began in 1757. It happens so slowly you won’t even notice. It is happening now. Digital colonization. Fight back Twitter #Tooter @TooterDotIn— Nanda (@nanda8tooter) January 9, 2021
While appealing to join Tooter, Nanda said that Twitter has banned Donald Trump in 2021, and it could just as easily ban PM Narendra Modi in 2024. Hence, people should join Tooter.
Twitter banned the still sitting president of USA. Guess what they will do to our beloved Pradhan Mantri Shree @narendramodi ji in 2024. I will not let this happen. I will put my last paisa into #Tooter to stand up against Twitter’s hegemony. Are you with me Bharat? @TooterDotIn— Nanda (@nanda8tooter) January 9, 2021
One of the elements because of which Tooter ended up getting a lot of coverage in the media, was that it was believed that the platform even got the endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Tooter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have a verified account.
There are several ‘Toots’ from his account too, that mirror the ‘Tweets’ that he posts on Twitter.
This fact was covered by several media houses, giving legitimacy to the fact that PM Modi indeed had an account on Tooter. Several media houses like Indian Express, Times of India and even The Quint reported that celebrities such as Virat Kohli, Deepika Padukone, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, several ministers and even Prime Minister Modi have an account on Tooter.
However, now several doubts have come to the fore. BJP spokespersons Tajinder Bagga and Suresh Nakhua took to Twitter to announce that PM Modi has not really joined Tooter and that Tooter has themselves made an account of PM Modi and verified it to give the impression that he has indeed endorsed the platform.
As far as I know, PM is not on the platform. https://t.co/1Lrl14wQLz— Suresh Nakhua (सुरेश नाखुआ) (@SureshNakhua) January 10, 2021
He is Not https://t.co/8vlPQ3LPVv— तजिंदर पाल सिंह बग्गा (@TajinderBagga) January 10, 2021
When OpIndia tried to confirm from its source, OpIndia too was told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had indeed not joined Tooter and neither had the ministers who purportedly have a verified account on Tooter now.
It appears as thought the Tooter team has created an account of PM Modi and several other ministers and coded their platform in a manner that pulls the tweets from Twitter to their current account on Tooter.
A confirmation of that fact was also hinted at when Mr R Vaidya asked Mr Nanda why he had a verified account on Tooter and how people were being made to follow him, since he himself had not made an account yet.
As this report was being written, IT Cell Head of BJP also took to Twitter to tweet that none of the BJP units, PM Modi, HM Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda or other functionary had accounts on Tooter.
Please note that neither the BJP or any of its state units, nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP National President J P Nadda have a presence on Tooter.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) January 11, 2021
PM Modi not on Tooter, but what is Tooter all about?
Tooter, in its ‘About Us’ page says, “We believe that India should have a Swadeshi social network. Without one we are just a digital colony of the American Twitter India Company, no different than what we were under the British East India Company. Tooter is our Swadeshi Andolan 2.0. Join us in this Andolan. Join us!”.
Interestingly, the moment someone joins Tooter, they are automatically made to follow three accounts – that of the CEO of Tooter, Mr R Vaidya and one ‘news’ handle.
In fact, the ‘Terms of Service’ mentioned that in matters relating to the website, any disputes or claims shall be governed in accordance with the internal laws of the State of Pennsylvania, a state in the US.
It would appear that when Tooter launched, they had mostly copied their terms and conditions from another website. However, after this was covered by Inc24, Tooter had updated their policy.
Tooter also says that its codebase and ‘free and open source’.
While Tooter relies on open-source and free codebase, it used to charge its users Rs 1,000 to ‘upgrade’ their account to get a verified badge, post rich text etc, at least November end when this article was published.
The Directors of Tooter Private Limited are Naresh Vankayalapati and Rameshwar Rao Vankayalapati. Not much is specifically known about them, or the CEO Mr Nanda.
While an Indian alternative to all social media platforms, including the information hub Wikipedia is the need of the hour, having verified accounts of people without their knowledge, especially of ministers and heads of states like the Prime Minister, poses a significant risk since information tweeted from the handle could be misconstrued as authentic.
While Prime Minister Modi may join Tooter or any other made-in-India platform in the future, one can safely conclude that he is not on Tooter just yet, and neither are several other celebrities whose verified accounts appear on Tooter now.