Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is under attack…on Twitter.
India’s Twitter community is slamming Dorsey after he was photographed holding up a sign that said “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy.” Dorsey is on an India visit, and during a visit with journalists and activists, posed for the picture that has since gone viral. The picture was condemned by several high-profile entrepreneurs, including former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai and India Quotient’s Anand Lunia.
Twitter has since responded to the backlash. “Recently we hosted a closed door discussion with a group of women journalists and change makers from India to better understand their experience using Twitter. One of the participants, a Dalit activist, shared her personal experiences and gifted a poster to Jack,” Twitter India said in a statement. “It is not a statement from Twitter or our CEO, but a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world,” Twitter said.
Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Trust and Safety lead has also issued a grovelling apology. “I’m very sorry for this. It’s not reflective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us – we should have been more thoughtful,” she said.
I'm very sorry for this. It's not relective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us – we should have been more thoughtful. Twitter strives to be an impartial platform for all. We failed to do that here & we must do better to serve our customers in India
— Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) November 19, 2018
But India’s Twitter community wasn’t impressed. Some said that Dorsey wouldn’t have held up a poster that attacked Christians, Jews, or any other community.
This is a pure hate poster targeting an ethnic group. Does it not violate Twitter policies? Would @jack hold up a poster like this targeting Jews or Muslim mullahs or Church patriarchy?
— Sankrant Sanu सानु (@sankrant) November 19, 2018
We'll believe it when @jack holds banners screaming "Stop Islamic Patriarchy" in Riyadh or "Stop Christian Patriarchy" in Vatican. Till then, it's hatemongering against Brahmins. https://t.co/PofFaw2hXd
— Giri Venugopal (@GiriGiriek) November 20, 2018
Others said that Dorsey ought to be blocked from his own platform for promoting hate speech. Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy states that users “may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people based on race, ethnicity, national origin..”. In the past, Twitter has banned several accounts for allegedly promoting hate speech; by their own standards, Dorsey could have his account revoked too.
Oops, so looks like @jack did not read the Hateful Conduct policy of @Twitter. Hi @TwitterIndia, so you don’t think a poster that says ‘smash ‘Brahminical’ patriarchy ‘directly attacks or threatens an ethnic group’? Really? pic.twitter.com/lzry21wLUR
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) November 19, 2018
And the trolling began in earnest. Some wondered if Twitter would introduce reservations in their Tweets, by giving different castes different number of characters for their tweets. “I thought it’s a level playing field…unless jack wants to give Dalits 560 characters, 240 to OBC, 140 to Upper caste ,70 to Brahmins,” wrote an Indian account.
Hinduphobic hatemongers are not activists….and why on earth does someone need to play caste card on twitter…I thought it's a level playing field…unless jack wants to give Dalits 560 characters ,240 to OBC,140 to Upper caste ,70 to brahmins
— HAL 9000 (@hashnosis) November 19, 2018
What’s worse, Dorsey could’ve broken Indian laws too. Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination based on caste, and by selectively singling out Brahmins for their supposed patriarchy, he might have contravened local regulations. It’s not clear how much he understands India, or its history of caste — Dorsey himself stated that he arrived in India for the first time just a week ago, and it was his first time here.
Most tech CEOs visit dignitaries and pose for photo-ops while in India, and some end up meeting some local celebrities too. How Jack Dorsey got conned into holding up a hate poster is unclear, but Dorsey’s India visit, which has necessitated a half-apology, half-clarification from Twitter, and days of outrage on his own platform, is turning out to be a bit of a PR disaster.