Exit Twitter, Enter Mastodon: Why Some Indians Are Switching To This Social Network

The suspension of Twitter account of a Supreme Court lawyer prompted many users to look for alternatives.

Exit Twitter, Enter Mastodon: Why Some Indians Are Switching To This Social Network

Over the past 24 hours, a little-known social media platform Mastodon may have noted a surge in new Indian users. Most of them angry. Most of them from Twitter.

First came the demands to Twitter India for restoring Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde’s account, which was banned for posting a picture that was categorised as hateful.

Hegde had posted a picture of German worker August Landmasser. You remember him, in a famous photograph from Germany in 1936, where he refused to perform a Nazi salute.

Then came the backlash for Twitter. A number of users joined a 24-hour boycott of Twitter from Nov. 6 noon. The numbers kept growing and soon some well-known names like AltNews Co-Founder Pratik Sinha, social activist Kavita Krishnan, journalist Shivam Vij and even popular musician Vishal Dadlani started moving to Mastodon.

Search Interest Spikes In India

Mastodon’s search interest (Source: Google Trends)
Mastodon’s search interest (Source: Google Trends)

One of them, Nikhil Pahwa, founder of MediaNama, said the move is happening because of Twitter’s shortcomings on transparency and accountability.

“The message to Twitter is: your behaviour is not acceptable,” Pahwa told BloombergQuint over the telephone. “It is very evident that Twitter India has a bias. And it is censoring speech with a political bias. This is why many people including me are looking for alternatives.”

Pahwa said that Mastodon is good alternative since it is completely decentralised. “It follows a strong policy of not carrying hateful speech and neo nazis on the platform. So it is cleaner. And the interface is similar to Twitter,” he said.

Besides, hateful hashtags are also removed. “Twitter, historically, has failed to deal with hate speech and people being abused on the platform. Instead, it has gone and censored people who protect free speech and those who put important information in the public domain.”

Twitter India has denied such allegations in a statement on Thursday. “To be clear, whether it's the development of policies, product features, or enforcement of our rules, we are impartial and do not take action based upon any ideology or political viewpoint,” the microblogging website said.

Still, people shifting to Mastodon may not be severely damaging to Twitter.

“It is not like I will stop using Twitter, but I will reduce my activity,” Pahwa said. “Right now there is enthusiasm about shifting to Mastodon. Maybe, two months down the line people may just go back to Twitter.”

BloombergQuint has reached out to Mastodon for a count of the new Indian users that have signed up over the past 24 hours. The story will be updated with their response, if any.

What Is Mastodon?

Mastodon—named after an extinct elephant-like mammal—is an open source network that allows users to post messages, images, videos and follow others. No single server, company or person runs the network, which means that anyone can create and run their own server of Mastodon.

Because there isn’t a single server for Mastodon, each server has its own rules. This allows users to choose a server which offers policies that they are comfortable agreeing with.

Mastodon was first released in October 2016 by Eugen Rochko, a software developer, and began to expand in 2017. The network claims to have over 2.2 million users, a mere fraction of the 321 million monthly active users of Twitter.

(Source: Mastodon website)
(Source: Mastodon website)