Home / Industry / Media /  Twitter faces BJP flak over new India news head

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday criticized the appointment of Raheel Khursheed, a former activist and journalist, as head of the news, politics and government division at Twitter Inc.’s Indian unit.

The main opposition party cited Khursheed’s statements on alleged army brutality in Kashmir and critical references to Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, for opposing the appointment even as it conceded that it was an internal matter of the company that runs the popular microblogging website.

To be sure, Khursheed, a prolific tweeter (he has posted 44,201 tweets since joining the social media site in 2008) who has 6,546 followers on the microblogging site, has been critical of Modi and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley. But he has also criticized India’s Kashmir policy, and, in a recent article for Quartz, a website launched by Atlantic Monthly at qz.com, criticised the Gandhi family, especially Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.

“Twitter has been successful in becoming global by being a neutral as well as open-ended platform of communication. I am afraid that this appointment will hamper that image in India," said Arvind Gupta, the head of the information technology cell at the BJP.

Khursheed declined to respond to the criticism by the BJP by phone.

“I am sorry but I am not authorized to speak on this issue; you can send me an email and I can reply to that," Khursheed said when reached for comment on the matter.

Neither he nor Rishi Jaitly, head of Twitter India, responded.

According to Khursheed’s profile on LinkedIn, the professional networking site, his new role would see him leading “strategies that scale up Twitter’s reach and impact with news, government, political users of Twitter".

Meanwhile, an online campaign for the removal of Khursheed has been posted on Change.org, an online petition platform. The petition, addressed to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sought the removal of Khursheed. The petition had garnered close to 750 signatures at last count.

This is not the first time that Twitter has come in for criticism for allegedly having political allegiances. In August, the head of Twitter India, Jaitly, was criticized for attending a social media workshop that was held for members of the Congress party.

An executive at a social media consulting firm said that Twitter has been working with both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, in an effort to popularize its platform, much like Google has been doing, again across parties, with its Google Hangouts. This person asked not to be identified.

The controversy is unlikely to affect the popularity of Twitter, said Atul Hegde, chief executive of digital marketing services firm Ignitee. Twitter has around 20 million users in India, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India and the Indian Market Research Bureau. Only a fraction of that will likely be active users.

However, it could make “people who are passionate about a social and political cause, they could definitely see Twitter in a particular light," said Siddharth Singh, associate professor of marketing at the Indian School of Business-Hyderabad.

What would upset users is if platforms such as Twitter “drastically change their policies and begin to remove content put up by particular users," added Hegde.

Catch all the Industry News, Banking News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less

Recommended For You

Trending Stocks

Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout