Twitter is out with its first consumer marketing campaign in India - the media plan includes TV commercials. But why again doesn't it tackle the trolling menace?
In an interview published by TED this week, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey conceded that abuse, harassment, manipulation, misinformation, outrage and 'mob behaviour' are some of the issues he did not foresee when he founded the social networking platform 13 years ago. These are all issues he is now actively looking to solve. "Right now, the dynamic of the system makes it super easy to harass and abuse others through the service," he said in the interview. He spoke about the urgent need to gauge the "health" of conversations on Twitter, condemned toxic tweets and echo chambers that breed hatred on the platform and iterated his "conduct over content" approach.
Interestingly and somewhat surprisingly, in its first-ever consumer marketing campaign for India, Twitter has not attempted to call out bad behaviour on the platform. Instead, the advertisement highlights the "power of the collective" that can spark positive social change. Titled 'No Tweet is too small when #WeTweet together', the campaign gives real examples of hashtags that became national movements - issues covered include the 377 verdict, the #MeToo wave, Swachh Bharat, Mangalyaan and several other fitness, health, sports, charity, and integration-related subjects.
While the platform can and does bring people together for the greater good, it is in equal measure a cesspool of negativity. Why not bring that up? Recall that last December, WhatsApp brought up the issue of fake news in its first-ever TV campaign in India .
Answering afaqs!'s question about neglecting the elephant in the room, a Twitter spokesperson says in an email - "Improving the health of the public conversation is a critical aspect of our work. Improving the conversational health of Twitter will continue to remain an important priority for us as a company."
In a blog (April 2019) on the platform, Donald Hicks, vice president, Twitter Service, wrote, "We want people to feel safe on Twitter. Last year, we shared that building a Twitter free of abuse, spam and other things that distract from the public conversation is our top priority. Since then, we've made strides in creating a healthier service..."
Created by Leo Burnett, the campaign includes digital, TV, OOH, and on-ground activation (for example, interactive screens) in colleges. The pan-India campaign will be live for the next eight weeks or so, with special focus on Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Sudesh Samaria, CCO and co-founder, Dentsu Webchutney states that technology can be used for good as much as it can be misused. "Despite its dark side, Twitter is a powerful tool that gives a voice to the voiceless. It depends on the user. While trolling on Twitter makes it to the headlines quite often, it is also wise to show its power to bring good at this scale. It is our duty and responsibility to encourage people to use products and platforms wisely. I like how this campaign celebrates the power of the platform, the strength of community and desire to do good," Samaria says.
"The fictitious example provides creative liberty while demonstrating the power of the platform, an individual and a community - without users getting distracted by a real example. The demonstration, though fictitious, is well supported by real and popular examples. Twitter is a great tool for social change. Many causes originated with a single tweet and snowballed into global movements," he adds.
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Gayatri Sriram, digital creative head at FCB Ulka Delhi, likes the way Twitter has initiated the conversation. Sriram says, "We have the world's largest youth population and their transformative power has been demonstrated on many occasions. And Twitter has been the workhorse behind many movements. It makes perfect sense for the first campaign to pay homage to all the powerful hashtags seen over the years."
"The thing about most movements is that we'll never really know the exact circumstances around their birth since they're fluid, organic and unorganised. Writing a fresh script, imagining a group of college students, starting something small that then catches fire and spreads to the whole country, is a great dramatic retelling. With Twitter, the flow of information has been reinvented - health emergencies around the world have relied on it to mobilise resources and, above all, it places power in the hands of the people," she adds.
Amarjeet Thakur, senior AVP, Mirum India opines that social media platforms come with their own baggage and Twitter leads the pack in vitriolic trolling. "It has to put some checks in place to maintain civility. But Twitter has become the go-to destination for real-time breaking stories. It has provided an open platform for people to converse with decision makers and put their views forward. Brands too, have extensively used Twitter to address customers. Twitter, in a real sense, has democratised social conversations," Thakur says.
"#WeTweet should be looked at solely as an ad campaign and allow Twitter the creative freedom to put forth its communication. If it had used an existing hashtag, say #MeToo, the issue would be Twitter's using a people's campaign to forward its own agenda. The hashtag is smart, but I would have preferred something which also appealed to and engaged the regional language audiences, who are also active users. Twitter fuelled the Tunisia Revolution (2010). That was when people started to consider Twitter as a medium of social change. It's not Twitter, but the people who have used the platform for change," Thakur signs off.