Govt vs Twitter

Good evening,

The government earlier today asked Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag from tweets about a document that it claims was prepared by the Congress to attack the Centre over its mishandling of the Covid pandemic.

Also in this letter:

🛵 Pay hikes, perks for delivery agents
🎙️ Clubhouse brings Android app to India at last
📱 Snapchat grows and grows in India

Govt asks Twitter to remove ‘manipulated media’ label from ‘toolkit’ tweets

The Twitter App loads on an iPhone in this illustration photograph

India has shot off a letter to Twitter, objecting to its ‘manipulated media’ label on tweets made by political leaders about a document that it claims was created by the Congress to “undermine, derail and demean the efforts of the government against Covid-19”. Various fact checks have shown that the document was created on a forged letterhead.

According to sources, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has told Twitter that it cannot pass judgment on a matter that is still under investigation and has asked the social media firm to remove the label. It said such content moderation by Twitter put a question mark on its status as an “intermediary”.

What happened? On Thursday, Twitter had labelled a tweet of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”. The tweet had a screenshot of what he called a “Congress toolkit” to target the government over its handling of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Congress party filed FIRs in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan the same day, in which it accused BJP leaders of sharing the fake “toolkit”.

Under Twitter’s ‘synthetic and manipulated media’ policy, the platform can label tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated. Users may also not share deceptively altered media on Twitter in ways that mislead or deceive people about its authenticity or that may result in threats to physical safety or other serious harm.

The government has also recently tightened its grip on social media platforms, seeking to clamp down on posts critical of its handling of the pandemic.

Last month, Twitter had censored around 50 such tweets on the instructions of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). However, the firm later clarified that if it received more requests to withhold content from the Indian government, it would engage “openly and constructively in the spirit of serving public conversation during a crisis”.

In February, the government ordered Twitter to block around 1,400 handles for allegedly fanning the farmer protests. Twitter suspended more than 500 of these accounts for violating its rules but said it would not take any action on accounts of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians as that would violate their “fundamental right to free expression under Indian law”.

E-comm firms offer pay hikes, incentives to delivery agents

Doorstep Delivery

Facing an acute shortage of delivery staff amid the second Covid wave, e-commerce firms including Amazon, Flipkart, Grofers, and logistics firms like Shadowfax and Ecom Express, are offering big increments, apart from incentives and perks to retain existing delivery personnel and bring more on board.

Delivery staff has nearly halved in some places, owing to high rates of infection due to the nature of their job, said industry insiders. Warehouses and delivery centres are operating on less than half strength, especially in metros, according to Alok Kumar at ManpowerGroup India.

What are they doing? Grofers is paying up to double the previous salaries to its delivery staff, apart from providing meals, while Shadowfax has increased payouts by 10-15% depending on the region.

Most large companies are covering the cost of vaccination for delivery staff and, in some cases, their dependents too. In the case of food delivery firms such as Zomato and Swiggy, this also helps them reassure customers.

The fine print: That said, the majority of the companies have not increased base pay, but are giving benefits such as attendance bonus, leave encashment, performance-linked incentives and a bigger joining bonus, said Ajoy Thomas, business head at human resources firm TeamLease Services.

Tweet of the day

Clubhouse debuts on Android in India


Invite-only social audio platform Clubhouse has extended its Android app to India, a few weeks after its US debut.

This is a major milestone for the year-old firm, which was available only on iOS until earlier this month.

Clubhouse is retaining its waitlist and invite system on Android to keep its growth measured. This is after the app has seen rapid growth last year owing to stay-at-home orders worldwide, which led to widespread server outages and notification failures.

Yes, but: Clubhouse’s current Android app has limited functionality compared to its iOS counterpart. The app doesn’t allow users to link their social profiles, change their profile name, follow a topic, or create or manage a club.

  • The Android app rollout is going to be key for Clubhouse’s future growth as its downloads have tanked in recent months. In India, Clubhouse clocked 14,000 downloads in April, a decline from 20,000 installs in March and a peak of 42,000 in February. It has clocked about 6,700 downloads as of May 16, as per data from Sensor Tower.

Clubhouse Downloads In India

Why does it matter? While Clubhouse pioneered the live audio format last year, it will now have to defend itself against increased competition from the likes of Twitter, Discord, Spotify, Reddit, LinkedIn, Slack and Telegram, which have either launched or are working on their own competing products.

  • In particular, Twitter has emerged as a prominent rival. It already allows all users in India to host audio chat rooms, which the company calls “Spaces”. Those outside India need 600 or more followers to host one.

Clubhouse vs Twitter Spaces (quick take): Clubhouse is essentially a virtual hallway with various rooms organised by topic, and thus lends itself to more serendipitous discussions for users, who can discover others with common interests and build communities.

Twitter, on the other hand, taps into your existing followers, and hence acts more like a watercooler discussion between people you already know and familiar with. It will be worth watching to see which approach sees better results in a post-pandemic world.

Snap’s daily users in India grew 100% YoY for last 5 quarters

snapchat increase in its daily active users in India

Snapchat has seen over 100% year-over-year growth in daily active users (DAUs) in each of the last five quarters, Snap Inc chief executive Evan Spiegel said at the company’s annual partner summit.

The social media app now has over 500 million monthly active users worldwide, with roughly 40% located outside of North America and Europe. Its user base in India crossed 60 million in Q4 2020, the company said in February.

Localisation playbook: India is one of the first markets where Snapchat’s parent Snap Inc. has invested in localising its product, through building local augmented-reality creator communities, local content, and investing in local marketing initiatives. Earlier this year, Snap CFO Derek Andersen said the company planned to extend its India localisation playbook to grow its base in several other countries.


Major AR push: Snap also made a big push towards augmented reality with its latest version of 3D glasses called Spectacles, which features dual AR-based displays, well ahead of bigger rivals Facebook and Apple.

However, these Spectacles are not on sale yet. They have a battery life of about 30 minutes, which indicates they are probably not ready for the mass market yet. The company is giving them to an undisclosed number of augmented reality creators through an online application programme.

  • Interestingly, the keynote presentation by Spiegel and other Snap Inc executives at the summit was done entirely in augmented reality this year, according to Axios.

ETtech Deals Digest

deals digest

Big funding rounds made a comeback to the Indian startup ecosystem this week. Digital payments startup Pine Labs and omnichannel eyewear retailer Lenskart were among the startups that landed new financing.

Today’s ETtech Top 5 was written by Vikas SN in Bengaluru and edited by Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai.


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