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Monday, January 25, 2021

Meet ‘Tooter’, the Swadeshi answer to Twitter: All you need to know

A Swadeshi social network called 'Tooter', wants to be the answer to all of our America-based social media problems. But is it really that different from Twitter?

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 25, 2020 9:19:20 am

Twitter, watch out. There’s new competition from India. A Swadeshi social network called ‘Tooter’ wants to be the answer to all of our America-based social media problems. Tooter is forked or derived from the Mastodon project. Remember Mastodon, the social network everyone said they would join to leave because Twitter was so unfair.

So what is Tooter? We take a quick look.

What is Tooter?

The About page for Tooter has this to say: “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!”

Tooter appears to have been active since July, but it looks like the platform has gone viral on Twitter and that’s how people are talking about this. Just like you post tweets on Twitter, you can post ‘toots’ on Tooter.

Who all are on Tooter?

It appears that Tooter has some big players on the platform. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already there with a verified account, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Sadhguru are also on the platform. All have verified accounts. The BJP also has an official account on Tooter.

What all can you do on Tooter?

Pretty much everything you can do on Twitter. In fact, Swadeshi Tooter has a design and user interface, which looks uncannily like Twitter. You have a profile, you can make lists, there is a news feed, you follow people, you tweet, oops you toot. In fact, even the blue colour is similar to the one Twitter uses for its official handle.

Tooter also has a blue ‘conch’ as its symbol. Interestingly, Kimboh, the WhatsApp rival launched by Ramdev’s Patanjali, also had a conch as its icon. That app did not have a successful run and was taken down from Google Play Store.

How does one sign up?

The website is at tooter.in and the app is available on Google Play Store. Sorry, no iOS app for now. Just put your email id, create a password and a new username and you can sign up to Tooter. We tried signing up and managed to login after some errors.

What is Tooter Pro?

What’s better than Tooter? Tooter Pro. You can upgrade by paying from Rs 1,000 per year. However, the site does not mention where to make this payment. If you do manage to make the payment, you are supposed to take a screenshot and email it with your tooter handle to upgrade@tooter.in. Hopefully, you will be upgraded to the Pro version. It is not clear what the Pro version offers.

What about Terms of Service and Privacy?

Tooter might be tooting its desi credentials, but a lot of people are pointing out that some of the ‘Terms of Service’ appear to be not-so-desi. One part about prohibited activities reads that a person may not “impersonate any person, or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person or organization, for a purpose not protected by the First Amendment.”

It appears to be talking about the first amendment as envisaged by the US Constitution that protects  freedom of speech, religion and the press. The Indian Constitution’s first amendment talks empowering the state to take affirmative action for the advancement of any socially and economically backward classes or categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by restricting the application of fundamental rights.

Tooter collects your email address, the content of your user profile; and/or your internet connection, the equipment you use to access the website and usage details.

Strangely it also says that “it is the policy of the Company to not provide any user data to any person unless compelled by a court order issued by a US court, except in cases of life-threatening emergency.”

Tooter also says “user contributions must not aid, abet, assist, counsel, procure or solicit the commission of, nor constitute an attempt or part of a conspiracy to commit, any unlawful act.” It adds rather confusingly, “For avoidance of doubt, 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.” So we are guessing you can express controversial opinions on the platform, but they won’t be considered illegal. It is not clear what defines a ‘controversial’ opinion.

Is this like the Indian version of Parler?

Parler, for those who don’t know, is a social network that claims to be all about free speech. The platform is popular among Donald Trump’s right-wing supporters, conservatives, and right-wing extremists, who feel platforms like Twitter and Facebook are biased against them. Given that Tooter’s members include some prominent members from India’s right-wing, people are drawing comparisons to Parler. But unlike Parler, Tooter does have some limits on what you can say and can’t.

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