Twitter has announced a new public education platform for India called #TweeSurfing with online resources and offline workshops. Twitter is partnering with the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research (CSR) to tackle the issue of online safety. It also wants to help people use the platform positively. As part of the pilot project, Twitter held online safety workshops with CSR in Coimbatore, Noida, Chitkara and Leh. It plans to hold workshops in North-East as well.
“Twitter is working globally and locally to educate users about online safety and how to use the platform. There are two ways of looking at it. One is the people who are on the platform, and we want to educate them about the rules of the platform, how to use it for social change, positive uses. But we also want to incorporate other users, who might know of Twitter, but are not on the platform yet,” said Mahima Kaul, Head of Public Policy for Twitter India in a telephonic interaction with indianexpress.com.
“The programme is aimed for across the country, and our workshops are reaching to millennials, active Twitter users. Essentially, make them understand what this 140 character world is all about,” said Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research. She added while metros are important, the idea is to also reach youngsters in smaller cities and towns in India.
With #TweeSurfing, the company has partnered with some celebrities, social media influencers to create more awareness. The list includes AIB’s Rohan Joshi, Kaneez Surka, television presenter Gaurav Kapoor, comedian Aditi Mittal, Congress leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, BJP IT head Amit Malviya, and Jay Panda, who is a Member of Parliament, to name a few. Twitter hopes stories from these people, who are all active users on the platform, will resonate with the audience.
One of the challenges for Twitter in India has been the perception of safety, given that abuse tends to get amplified on the platform. This is a problem not just for the Indian market, but globally as well. “Safety is a core priority for Twitter. India is a big market for us. We’ve made a few safety changes in the past like making it easier for people to report abusive tweets, add multiple tweets when emailing a report to us. We’ve also given people the ability to mute someone, when you might be tagged in a conversation that is going on, and can be abusive,” said Kaul.
She also pointed out while from a technology perspective they are offering more choices to the user, Twitter knows it can do more to make the experience better for users. When it comes to women’s safety, which is often a serious issue on Twitter, Kaul highlighted more people need to come out and report the abusive tweets.
“We’ve seen that at times people don’t report the tweet, and instead spend time talking about the tweet, which ends up giving it a lot more visibility, than is needed. People tag others saying this tweet should be taken off, but don’t actually end up reporting. That’s what part of #TweeSurfing wants to highlight, that people should actually report the tweet to us,” she said.
CSR’s Director said that when it comes to keeping conversation open and non-abusive, there is a huge challenge for Twitter, and #TweetSurfing campaign tries to address some of the lines and boundaries. “There’s an important role played by Twitter Trust and Safety Council, where these issues have been discussed openly. The eventual hope is that #TweeSurfing will be like a web resource to educate people, and we’ll see this abusive communication give way to more meaningful, friendly communication,” she said.
On women’s safety, Kumari added, “Women are targeted more easily. just like it is offline. Twitter has been dealing with this, they have defined sexual harassment, and woman can control it by blocking, muting the abusive tweets, account.” She also argued Twitter is a platform where some issues around women’s rights have taken place in India.
For instance, the #LahuKaLagaan tag around the GST tax on sanitary napkins was discussed, debated and became a full fledged campaign on Twitter. Another campaign is the #5050 one, where globally people have been demanding equal representation of women in parliaments, legislatures.
According to her, there have been meaningful campaigns on Twitter in the past, which shows the potential of the platform. When it comes to the larger online safety debate, Kumari also highlighted the need for stronger law, and law enforcement officials needing sensitisation on how to deal with such cases. “We need to encourage reporting, and not just blocking. Report the account to Twitter. Twitter is aware of how to respond,” she said.
Twitter will also hold #TweeSurfing workshops in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as colleges in Chennai, Kanyakumari and Coimbatore. There’s also a 14-day virtual internship program called TweeShip, which will train users on how to create Twitter campaigns for social change.