Photo: Koo
Photo: Koo

Earlier this week, it was reported that 'Koo', the new central government-approved social media platform, is being touted as the homegrown contender to Twitter.

This is not just on paper, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), the Union Ministry of Railways and some other government departments have actually set up accounts on Koo, the native micro-blogging site, promising "exciting and exclusive updates". This comes after Twitter did not comply with the government's directive to block some tweets and accounts, triggering the need for the government to look for an alternative outlet.

In the latest chapter to this war over cyberspace, it has been reported that good days are ahead for Koo, since the desi Twitter alternative managed to raise about Rs 30 crore from a clutch of investors, which includes former Infosys director T. V. Mohandas Pai.

According to a PTI report, 3one4 Capital, an entity backed by Mohandas Pai, is the most recent addition to the list of investors backing Koo. The other existing investors on board are Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, Blume Ventures and Dream Incubator.

The funds will be utilised for engineering and marketing-related expenses, an official statement said.

Pai himself was seen promoting a how-to guide regarding the app.

The ten-month-old app's co-founder and chief executive Aprameya Radhakrishna affirmed that Koo enables the free expression of thoughts and opinions for every Indian irrespective of the language preference. Existing microblogging platforms have not been able to grow beyond the English-speaking population, he added.

Koo said it has so far verified handles of MeitY, MyGov, Digital India, India Post, National Informatics Centre (NIC), National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), Common Services Centre, UMANG app, Digi Locker, National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), among others, on its platform.

With revamps to its arsenal in the war against Twitter, Koo has indeed received an early boost, thanks to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government's promotion.

Several netizens wondered why Koo is the luckiest in among all recent Twitter alternatives, including Tooter, which was a "flop show". OpIndia editor Nupur J Sharma opined that Mohandas Pai's investment could be a major factor behind people moving to Koo from Twitter, as there is a "sense of faith" attached.

The "liberal" crowd in India seems content, however, suspecting (perhaps naively) that a major section of the Hindu nationalist Twitter will now be making the switch to Koo.

The app was launched 10 months ago and won the Aatmanirbhar App Challenge organised by the Indian government.

Why is India trying to switch from Twitter?

This move to Koo, for several union ministries, comes as a strategic response against Twitter for not complying with the order for blocking around 257 Tweets and Twitter accounts which were tweeting about farmer genocide, Koo has informed in a statement.

In a strongly-worded notice to Twitter, MeitY last week said it had on January 31 asked the micro-blogging site to block 257 URLs (web addresses) and one hashtag under the relevant provision of the law as they were "spreading misinformation about (farmer) protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country."

Twitter chose to sit over the request for one full day before blocking them, only to unblock them a few hours later. This was not taken kindly by the government and a fresh order/notice has been issued to Twitter for compliance, failing which penal action under sections that provide for fine and jail up to 7 years can be initiated.

According to Twitter, it held meetings with government officials and conveyed that the accounts and posts in question constitute free speech and are newsworthy. The company then "unwithheld" the accounts to protect public conversation. The other accounts that were initially withheld included those of CPM politician Mohd Salim, farm organisation BKU Ekta Ugrahan and Tractor2Twitter.

"We believe that it is important to build social networks keeping in mind local cultural nuances. Koo being deeply focussed on India will help ensure a consistent experience for all users on the platform.

"We are humbled and at the same time excited by the adoption and encouragement by so many noteworthy personalities and recently the entry of the top most government offices of the country onto Koo," its co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna.

The company also claimed it has seen a surge in downloads after MeitY joined its platform.

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Free Press Journal