Twitter is in the public eye for restricting access to the accounts that were vocal about the farmers protests in India. How does this affect the sanctity of Twitter as a brand platform?
Twitter is metaphorically caught between a rock and a hard place in India. In early January (2021), the platform took action against hundreds of accounts that claimed to have violated the Twitter rules – particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm. The tweets it took action against were those vocal about the farmers protests in India.
On February 1, Twitter withheld the accounts of The Caravan magazine and the (farmers organisation) Kisan Ekta Morcha for supporting the farmers protest. Twitter restored both the handles later that same day, but the world's lens has been trained on the social media platform.
In a blog post, Twitter mentioned that it was been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
"Out of these, two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with, but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law," Twitter wrote.
One may recall that in early January, former US President Donald Trump's account was also banned, albeit permanently.
"After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them – specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter – we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," cited a Twitter blog post, referring to the Capitol Hill violence in Washington DC before Trump left office.
The alternative to Twitter in India is an app called Koo, which has seen an increase in interest ever since the trending hashtags that are calling for a ban of Twitter. This begs the question:
How does this affect brands on the platform?
Prachi Bali, national head of client partnerships and business head - North, FoxyMoron, says that brand safety has more to do with the kind of ads that show up on the platform. She adds that unless and until Twitter starts deleting these accounts en masse, this will not affect brand partnerships, going forward.
According to Bali, the brands have a set of guidelines that they need to use while communicating with their audience. These guidelines include, how to communicate on social media. More often than not, every tweet and piece of communication is approved by a legal team so as to not land the brand in trouble, she adds.
"More than brands, it’s possible that the influencers could get affected by the account ban situation. Some of them might be unfiltered, while posting their opinion on social media, and this could affect the brands that choose to work with them."
She takes example of standup comic and influencer Aditi Mittal and points out that she is one such celebrity who is vocal about issues. "When Whisper wanted to tie up with her for a feminist cause, it was a good brand fit, but this kind of fit isn’t always going to happen," says Bali.
The chief marketing officer of a delivery services company that dabbles in moment marketing on social platforms, points out that this will not affect how brands communicate on the platform as they already have an array of checks in place before posting content.
“It’s not a question of brand safety. Brands will, anyway, stay away from making controversial or political remarks. If Twitter gets banned, then the brands will go to where the consumers are. It is important to stay relevant,” he said, on the condition of anonymity.
He agrees that th influencers have, indeed, been vocal on this issue ever since it began – but that they’re not the only ones who have had their accounts banned for speaking out on sensitive issues. He points out that Trump also had his tweets removed and account suspended. The Twitter handles of Kisan Ekta Morcha and Caravan were also among those banned.
“Influencers will not rely only on one platform for their income. It’s possible that if they get banned on one platform, they’ll rely on their presence on other platforms to earn their income,” he concludes.