Twitter’s Jack Dorsey was accused of “hate mongering” and “inciting violence” Monday — by users of Twitter in India.
The CEO was pictured with women activists Sunday at a meeting in New Delhi, holding a poster that said: “Smash Brahminical patriarchy.”
The political art refers to the demands of India’s Dalit lower caste and other religious minorities to address sex-based and caste-based discrimination perpetrated by the elite Brahmins.
Dorsey is on a tour of Asia to talk to officials and activists about their experiences on the platform. His visit to India, one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets, was to meet with groups ahead of the elections in 2019.
The CEO was handed the poster during a meeting with women journalists and activists. A picture was shared by one of the attendees that quickly went viral, sparking an immediate backlash.
T. V. Mohandas Pai, a former finance chief of software exporter Infosys, accused the Twitter chief of "hate mongering" against Brahmins.
Others called it an “incitement to violence”:
One user labeled Dorsey “Hinduphobic”:
A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Dorsey understood the poster’s messaging.
Twitter India said Monday that the poster 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.”
Vijaya Gadde, who heads up safety on Twitter and who accompanied Dorsey to India, went further and directly apologized.
“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. 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.”
But some activists have criticized what they see as Twitter’s kowtowing to India’s elite.
“If these people threw as big of a tantrum over what is actually happening in terms of gender-based and caste atrocities, we wouldn't have to make a poster,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the executive director of Equality Labs, a South Asian community technology organization, told VICE News.
It was Soundararajan’s colleague who gifted the poster to Dorsey. Soundararajan said that the Twitter CEO had now seen his own platform from a very different perspective.
“Jack Dorsey for a day got to experience what it is like to be a Dalit woman and guess what, it's not pleasant, which is why so many of our people leave the platform,” Soundararajan said.
Twitter has long struggled to contain hatred and incitement to violence on its platform. In India, where there is a direct link between online and offline violence, people no longer feel safe using the site.
“It's unsafe and no one wants to be exposed to rape threats and death threats, and we know in India in particular, online violence is a precursor to physical violence — just look at the WhatsApp lynchings," Soundararajan said.
Cover image: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)