The visit of the CEO of a global tech giant to India is usually a cause for celebration — when Apple CEO Tim Cook had visited India, he’d met with everyone from cricketers and Bollywood celebrities, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had visited IIT Bombay and then rubbed shoulders with Sachin Tendulkar. But the reaction to the visit of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey been a lot more mixed.
Dorsey announced last night (on Twitter, of course), that he was in India, and checked in from New Delhi. He added that it was his first time in the country, after having wanted to “experience” it for a lifetime.
(my first time here after a lifetime of wanting to experience it)
— jack (@jack) November 9, 2018
There were lots of welcoming messages, some from prominent Indian entrepreneurs.
— Vijay Shekhar (@vijayshekhar) November 10, 2018
namaste 🙏 welcome to India 🇮🇳
— Dinesh "dinu" Bishnoi (@dinuDB) November 10, 2018
And given how it was Twitter, there was some gentle ribbing too.
Hope no Indian looking guy recognised you in the flight and said “Hi Jack”
— sea link (@ns69218814) November 10, 2018
Did you enjoy Silk Board? It’s a modern heritage site. Time freezes when you are there!
— Ashwin Ramasamy (@Ashwinizer) November 10, 2018
Khana kha ke jaana
— Confusedicius (@MauveMemory) November 9, 2018
But there’s a section of Twitter that hasn’t been particularly welcoming. Just this month, it had emerged that Mahima Kaul, Director of Policy at Twitter India, had tweeted disparagingly about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2010, claiming that “bombs and deaths” were second to Modi’s ambition, and urged the Indian media to “get out of Modi’s ass.” At the same time, she’s gushed about Rahul Gandhi, once saying it was nice to have a good looking politician on TV, and said that young people she talked to thought Rahul Gandhi was their hero. She’d also tweeted that election victories of the Congress were “comforting.”
— Shrin (@ShrrinG) October 30, 2018
— Shash (@pokershash) October 30, 2018
It’s not unusual for people to tweet about politics on Twitter — much of the conversation on the platform centers around politics. But the tweets, which Kaul deleted when they were unearthed, brought sharp focus on Twitter’s alleged political bias. In the west, Twitter has shut down several right-wing accounts for flimsy reasons, including the accounts of journalist-provacateur Milo Yiannopolous and entrepreneur Martin Shkreli. In India, right-leaning people are similarly aggrieved, feeling that several right-wing accounts have been suspended without proper justification.
Dorsey, thus, faced a barrage of criticism on his initial “Hello India” tweet.
Buddy, u need to wake up
Blocking well meaning Nationalist handles won't work
It will only encourage creation of a competitive platform sooner than you think by us
— Col A K Tiwari🇮🇳🚩 (@colkt) November 10, 2018
@Jack Welcome to India 🇮🇳
Wonder why???? Please reinstate @JagratiShukla29
Abusive, derogatory handle's still remain intact and useful one's gets suspended.
— Sushil Sancheti 🇮🇳 (@SushilSancheti9) November 10, 2018
We r unhappy with ur biased approach against particular set of people, Jack. Disappointed, Leaving this platform soon.
U know loving the country u live in is not a crime so is raising voice against anti-nationals. But it look like ur team has affection for these Anti-Nationals.
— The Patriot (@Indian_567) November 9, 2018
Hi, since u r here, i want to tell u that ur @TwitterIndia has recently joined a political party, Now they r promoting them and banning other parties ppl account. Take strict action against them or put a tagline that,
Twitter: A biased social media. #ISupportJagratiShukla
— Ritesh bhardwaj (@005Ritesh) November 10, 2018
— Jai (@JAIP00NIA) November 10, 2018
— :Dunce🚩 (@Indian_Dunce) November 9, 2018
Jack Dorsey, for his part, seems to be keeping with his schedule, and is doing the usual touristy things. Dorsey is known to be interested in Indian culture, having completed a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation in January, and he began his trip by meeting the Dalai Lama. He also seems to have clicked a picture of a rangoli of the Twitter logo, and is now in Jaipur. It sounds like a fairly standard trip for a first-time American visitor to India, but Dorsey will realize that just like at home, he will find it hard to avoid allegations of political bias on the platform that he runs.
Thank you @DalaiLama. You’re an amazing teacher.
Also: thank you for not actually pulling out my nose ring, despite a lot of painful effort. pic.twitter.com/fEYtui5EY0
— jack (@jack) November 10, 2018