Think Twitter is not “swadeshi” enough for you? Or that the microblogging site’s American roots are far too westernised to suit your taste? Maybe you feel Twitter is “anti-Indian” and needs to be decolonised? Don’t worry. We, as a country adept at jugaad, now have a “Swadeshi Andolan 2.0” in the form of Tooter! No, I am not making this up. That is the exact combination of words this new Indian-developed website and app is using to describe itself in all seriousness. And along that thread, tweets are called ‘toots’ here.
Having only been incepted this year, Tooter has surfaced at a time as allegations against Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over claims of his website’s bias against Hindu sentiments began mounting. Several right-wing figures, including politicians, have been vocal in their opposition to the kind of content Twitter allows to float without regulation. Recently, actress Kangana Ranaut, too, broached the subject of a Twitter ban during the social media row against IPS D Roopa.
@jack @Twitter @TwitterIndia your bias and Islamist’s propaganda is embarrassing, why did you suspend @TIinExile ? Because he busted fake narratives of our history? Shame on you, waiting for the day when you will be banned in India, hope @PMOIndia takes action against twitter.
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) November 18, 2020
So can Tooter be the answer to apparent shortcomings of social networking platforms like Twitter? What other advantages can a user avail if they switch to using this “desi” app? Morever, who is behind the conception and execution of this social networking platform? Besides, who all can you start following when you join Tooter?
Here are ten things to know about Tooter, before you decide to create an account for yourself:
1. Tooter, an Indian-developed website, also available as an android app on Google Play, is based out of Barugudem, a small village in Khammam, Telangana, and operated by Tooter Pvt. Ltd. Tooter’s user interface and web pages have a stark similarity to Twitter, complete with the trademark blue colour. The logo shows what looks like a white conch shell.
2. The vision behind Tooter is described on the site as follows: “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!”
3. Tooter boasts of a copyright policy as well, with penalties punishable under law. It claims to respond to “notices of alleged copyright infringement,” with users allowed to request for the “removal” of said content. Users can even file a “counter notification” in case of their posts having been wrongfully removed.
4. The site clearly states that it will have discretion over disabling the accounts of users it deems repeat offenders. The statement reads, “It is our policy in appropriate circumstances to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who are repeat infringers.”
6. Tooter claims it will collect information on users’ email addresses, internet connections, devices used, and other data on profiles. Going by the guidelines, the site even allows for digital payment transactions. While the purpose of this feature isn’t mentioned, a Twitter user pointed out that Tooter offers “an upgrade to TooterPRO” at “₹1000 per year.”
7. As goes the hate speech policy, Tooter specifies that on its website, “speech which is merely offensive or the expression of an offensive or controversial idea or opinion, as a general rule, will be in poor taste but will not be illegal in India.”
8. The terms of service on Tooter clearly mention, without specific context, “Company may terminate your account and/or access to the Company Services at any time, for any or no reason, with or without prior notice or explanation, and shall have no liability to you for such termination.”
9. Similar to Twitter, social networking site Tooter’s features will entail “message boards, chat rooms, personal web pages or profiles, forums, bulletin boards, group pages, discussion threads, and other interactive features.”
10. Tooter already has the presence of several noted politicians and public personalities with verified accounts, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At 484 toots and only 190 followers, Modi’s profile shows he has been a member of Tooter since August 2020, and his posts on current affair events and photos resemble those on Twitter. Other personalities on Tooter with verified handles are Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Virat Kohli, Amit Shah, Kiran Bedi, Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, and Yogi Adityanath.
Views expressed are the author’s own.