Everyday on Twitter, innovative and creative people use their accounts to create positive social change and highlight conversations that are important to their community. They are also users who keenly use -- and consume -- the service. Many of them often serve as ambassadors on online safety for the platform.
Our @tweesurfing online safety campaign, which has channeled the goodwill of some of our prolific Twitter users, was launched with our safety partner @CSR_India two years ago. The project completed its 100th interview in November 2018. To celebrate the milestone, they interviewed Twitter founder and CEO @Jack when he was in India (watch the full interview)! In addition, we hosted a special #हमसेहैहिम्मत event in New Delhi, to showcase the vibrancy of the Indian Twitter community as part of our #PositionOfStrength series.
The first panel called ‘The #Changemakers” was hosted by @Anshul_Tewari, founder of @YouthKiAwaaz, an online platform for young people to raise their voices, and a partner for Twitter India in running #DemocracyAdda, a platform to encourage young people to participate in the public conversation around the Indian elections.
Japleen Pasricha of @FeminismInIndia spoke of the efforts to sustain the #YesAllWomen movement online - and offline - in the wake of the 2016 Bengaluru mass molestation case on New Years eve. She described how aligning with local issues and local people helped keep the attention on the hashtag and create a moment of counter speech, to push the focus on survivors of sexual harassment and their stories.
@RahulVerma of @UdayFoundation spoke about the positive power of Twitter the non profit has leveraged to build a community around themselves by focusing on the quality of the engagement they have, and not the number of followers. They only tweet when they have something of value to add, and request their followers to keep their ‘notifications’ on for their account. He also wanted to see Twitter expand into rural areas to deepen engagement.
@Sairee Chahal, CEO of @Sheroes, talked about how Twitter has become her virtual office, and how people joke they can find her on Twitter even if no where else! Since the Sheroes community is interest based, it has evolved from an engagement community to one that has become a support mechanism for its members. She also believes guidelines on social media platforms should be highlighted so that people don’t take undue advantage of them.
Gurmeher Kaur, author, ‘Small Acts of Freedom,’ talked of her experience at getting trolled in 2016 and how difficult it was to even access her phone as her notifications would not stop. After a digital detox, she returned to the internet, to realise that she had also accrued an audience who listened when she talked, and was interested in her opinions. She urged Twitter to think more around creating safe spaces for women, so that ‘free speech’ is promoted along with ‘equal speech’.
Amitabh Kumar, lead for @Tweesurfing, an online safety initiative by NGO Center for Social Research, supported by @TwitterIndia moderated the second panel, “Serving the Healthy Conversation.” The panelists shared their own experiences of building community and gave suggestions around how they would like to see the platform evolve.
Sunchika Pandey has helped @MumbaiPolice develop not just a wildly popular Twitter account, but an account that focuses on public service messaging, countering fake news, and share real time information. She revealed that at first the police wasn’t confident on coming on the platform, for fear of being criticized, but eventually through humor and making citizens feel closer to the police force, they have managed to humanize the force. She felt the real time interaction of Twitter is its strength, and firm action against habitual offenders was one of the best ways to keep it positive.
Beena Pallical of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights spoke about the healthy participation of women around movements like like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and HappyToBleed. However, she stressed that the conversation must become more equal and provide space to marginal voices as well. Given that some of them are at risk of offline violence, their safety online becomes even more critical. She felt the breaking of hierarchy has been possible on an open platform like Twitter, but ensuring that repeat offenders are taken off the platform would steer it towards a more respectful space.
@Madhukishwar Desai, Vice President of @BJYM talked about being more of a “listener” on Twitter, and that he checks it almost every ten minutes to keep track of latest news. One of the reasons he doesn’t actively engage is because he feels it can be difficult to be nuanced on Twitter, and he doesn’t want to be “boxed in.” He talked about the importance and rise of regional languages on Twitter and that the company must support their growth on the platform. He also felt that conversations on Twitter needed to be conclusive -- not necessarily to convert people but to enable them to share information -- to be more satisfactory. He also suggested the rules be made simpler and that verified accounts should be held to a higher standard.
@AkashBanerjee, who runs a political satire show called #DeshBhakt online, talked on the importance of satire and humour in communication. He had prepared a specific list of suggestions for Jack which included actioning repeat offenders, taking actions against spammers and online mob harassment, and having a clearer policies on harassment. He also suggested that users should be able to thread conversations (not just tweets) to make the space more vibrant. Another suggestion was not reward the most interesting content creators on Twitter, and to help them monetize this content as well.
After the panels, @Jack took the stage to answer questions from the audience. He spoke about what Twitter’s impact is: to serve the public conversation. He spoke about how Twitter should be able to amplify healthy conversations, and in order to do that the company had to ask itself the right questions to assess what is a healthy conversation.
Watch the panel highlights here:
In typical Indian “jugaad” style, we hope to have many more conversations with a wider range of users from across India, to celebrate and share India’s unique Twitter experience!