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Wednesday 8 July 2020

Amul handle re-activated; Twitter offers implausible excuse for suspension

A leftist platform, betraying intolerance they accuse the right wing of, hit Amul, a brand appreciated for creative spoofs on current affairs

Twitter after temporarily pulling down the official handle of Indian dairy products cooperative Amul over its ‘Exit the Dragon’ cartoon — a spin-off from the Hong Kong-made movie featuring Bruce Lee — has reinstated the account. This happens days ahead of the much-anticipated high-level India-China talks to resolve the border dispute between the two countries from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

Twitter had blocked Amul ostensibly for uploading the cartoon, which the micro-blogging site perceived as an anti-China message. Ironically, the communist government of China does not let Twitter — along with Facebook, Google and other American internet platforms — operate in its territory. For every social networking site, China has developed its own version that runs according to the dictates of the Communist Party of China (CCP). That, however, makes these companies more desperate to pander to the communists with the bleak hope that the regime would let them sink their teeth in the huge consumer market, industry observers say.

Twitter took the caption ‘Exit the Dragon’, sources said, for a reference to the Chinese military entering Indian territory last month. In the topical, the Amul girl faces a dragon, and behind the figures is a logo of the Chinese video-sharing mobile application TikTok.

A leftist, politically correct platform, betraying intolerance that they accuse the right-wing of, thus eventually hit a brand appreciated for its creative spoofs on local and global news headlines. Amul’s latest cartoon, seen as an endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for “Atmanirbhar Bharat’, could be another reason that put Twitter off, given the company head Jack Dorsey’s open admission that his staff suffers from a leftist bias.

Amul-Twitter war

Besides. regardless of the rising anti-Chinese sentiment in India, such internet platforms have it in their policy statements, terms and conditions stated clearly that they would not tolerate messages against any people (race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, creed, etc). There, of course, the lure of the Indian market does not work. The exalted philosophy of upholding freedom of speech goes out of the window too.

Twitter re-activates Amul handle pulled down for 'Exit the Dragon' cartoon (internal image)
Another Amul topical that got Twitter’s goat

Following the deactivation of their account, Amul had issued a statement saying, “Amul’s Twitter account @amul_coop was temporarily deactivated on the late night of 4th June after our Amul Topical on “Boycott of Chinese Products” with the copy “Exit the Dragon?” 3rd June 2020. This happened without prior intimation to us.’’

“On the morning of 5th June, we complied with the process to reactivate our account and we were live. Our followers were not able to see the above mentioned topical on due to deactivation and they came out in support of Amul and were upset with this behavior of Twitter.”

Amul said that it had sought an explanation from Twitter for briefly blocking its account.

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“We have taken up with Twitter to know the reasons of their action. Amul Topical started in 1966 and since then 1st topical has been an observer of events/moments local, national and international. Our Amul Moppet which features in our Amul Topical has reported these various events which have an impact on the lives of people,” the company said.

It said further, “Amul Topicals are a chronicler of events/moments worldwide from the elections of PMs and Presidents, Brexit, lockdown due to COVID-19, sports events, movies to 1st time airing of Ramayana and Mahabharat in 1987 and 1989 to even events like Emergency in India in 1976.”

In an apparent act of daring the micro-blogging site again, Amul has now pinned the tweet (“pinning” is retaining a post on top of a Twitter timeline no matter how many new posts come up thereafter).

The phenomenal Indian dairy cooperative — Shyam Benegal’s film Manthan featuring Smita Patil and Naseeruddin Shah is an ode to the initiative — asserted that its creatives were published without biases. “Amul Topicals function like any news channel/publication and reports the event/moment without having a biased opinion. The said topical is also a remark/question on the events taking place without influencing viewers with any mala fide intentions,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter pleaded its position, saying the site took the action strictly for safety and security of the Amul account. It claimed deactivation was not related to the content published. 

“Safety and security of the accounts is a key priority for us and to ensure an account has not been compromised sometimes we require the account owner to complete a simple reCAPTCHA process. This is easy for authentic account owners to solve, but difficult (or costly) for spammy or malicious account owners to complete. Once the account clears this security step the account regains full access. To protect the accounts we routinely require them to clear this security key for login verification, the Twitter spokesperson said while referring to the issue.

Reacting to the statement from Twitter, the owner of an authentic handle, which has often borne the brunt of the site’s arbitrary behaviour, asked on the condition of anonymity, “Does Twitter mean that only a ‘compromised’ account could post an anti-China message? Does it mean to say that all authentic handle owners are perforce stooges of the Chinese Communist Party?”

Apart from the niggling Chinese incursions along the international border (Uttarakhand to Sikkim), Line of Actual Control (Ladakh) and the MacMahon Line (Arunachal Pradesh), Indians by and large are today peeved with the Chinese after several international investigating agencies found China to have not only suppressed facts of the coronavirus outbreak in 2019 but also to have indeed created the virus to devastate world economies with an intention to be the only surviving superpower.

Educator Sonam Wangchuk, who inspired Aamir Khan’s character Rancho in the Bollywood film 3 Idiots — has famously appealed to all Indian citizens to boycott Chinese goods.

Earlier, another popular platform, YouTube, had earned notoriety by censoring all comments referring to the troll army of the CCP.

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