Twitter, which issued a statement on its “public commitment to being apolitical” on Wednesday, distancing itself from the “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy” poster, had last week, in a mail sent to all participants of a closed-door meet, agreed to look at whether to make caste a separate a reporting category under its hateful conduct policy.
Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and the company’s legal head, Vijaya Gadde, held a closed-door meeting with a small group of women — journalists and activists — for feedback on safety concerns of different kinds of Twitter users. At the end of the meeting, Dorsey was photographed holding the poster that led to a controversy.
While Twitter immediately distanced itself from the poster, which called out the link between caste and gender oppression, participants of the discussion confirmed that Dorsey had agreed to look at ways to include caste explicitly under its ‘Hateful conduct policy’. The policy at present does not mention caste as a separate category but only prohibits users from inciting violence or attacking others “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
One of the participants said, “After it was explained to Jack that just as he cannot refrain from mentioning race as a category, the same applies to caste. The Dalit population stands at 300 million, equal to the population of USA at 320 million. He listened to everything and then agreed to work on developing an algorithm for reporting caste-based abuses.”
An email sent by Twitter India to all the participants a day after the meet stated that Twitter prohibits abuse based on caste, even though it’s not specifically called out in the policy. “Abusing people on the basis of caste would be a type of intra-religious distinction. It would fall under our hateful conduct policies, prohibiting the targeting of people based on their membership in a religious group. However, based on the useful feedback Vijaya received on this trip, she is going to discuss with the team whether this should be called out more explicitly,” the mail read.
A statement issued by four participants of the meeting — Anna M M Vetticad, Nilanjana S Roy, Rituparna Chatterjee, and Sanghapali Aruna — read, “It comes as a disappointment to all of us dealing with the abuse, harassment and legal threats that we are facing now, that Vijaya Gadde has, in a Twitter apology, chosen to claim that the photo was a “private photo”, has apologised to handles alleging that we were instigating hate, and — in sharp contrast to her emotional, apologetic response at that private meeting — publicly distanced herself from Dalit and gender concerns. This is also in sharp contrast to Twitter’s strong stand in favour of women and marginalised communities in other countries.”
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Twitter India reiterated the stand it took a day earlier. It read, “The sentiments expressed on the poster do not reflect the views of Twitter as a company or Jack as the CEO, and we regret that this picture has detracted from an otherwise insightful trip to India…”
Meanwhile, Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted, “Unequivocally condemning his (Jack’s) action. Why blame @CreatorOfTwitt . Anti Bhrahmisam is the reality of Indian politics. Got accentuated in the North post Mandalisation of Indian politics. We are the new Jews of India and we should just learn to live with it.”
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