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Bollywood’s problem with Twitter

A couple of months back, filmmaker Vikram Bhatt initiated a public petition for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to ban the Twitter account of Kamaal R Khan (KRK).

In the petition, he attached a few screenshots as proof of how Kamaal had abused and sexually harassed a number of Bollywood heroines in the name of trolling. The petition gathered more 5K votes and was inching towards the required 7K+ votes when suddenly Kamaal thought it is fit to take a step back and apologise.

Vikram was quick to forgive and decided to let go of all his grudges against Kamaal. Kamaal on his part – through a series of tweets – admitted to his mistake and vowed never to troll an actress again.

However, soon another row erupted on Twitter when Ajay Devgn publicly alleged that KRK has received a kickback from Karan Johar to trash his film Shivaay on Twitter.

As the controversy raged on, Twitter responded to it by verifying the account of KRK two days back.

Don’t be surprised. The founding fathers of Twitter are principally against stopping online abuse because they think that they are muzzling free speech.

According to a report on Buzzfeed, there was a time when Jason Goldman (one of the early top executives of Twitter) fought a bitter turf war against Sheryl Sandberg (now COO of Facebook) about the principle that should be followed at Blogger, Google’s once popular blogging site. 

Sheryl Sandberg was heading the popular Google Adwords programme and wanted to shut down blogs that were abusive and vicious. Jason had a contrarian point of view.

Sandberg lost the battle. But she won it a few years later when she made sure that Facebook was made safe from online harassment by a series of checks and balances which even included seeking proof of identity from users. 

Blogger, though it exists today, is a pale shadow of the popularity it once used to enjoy.

Twitter, on the other hand, got infested with trolls with anonymous handles registered from ‘unknown’ email IDs. Though recently Twitter has released an online tool to stop harassment and abuse, the very existence of the company is now threatened because it has become a “honeypot of assholes”.

Twitter has lost business, face and now faces an existential crisis because of its inability to stop online abuse. This, I think, is one of the reasons why Twitter couldn’t respond to the Buzzfeed article on their blog.

The reverse is true too: Examples of Bollywood celebrities using abusing words on Twitter. (left) Singer Abhijeet’s tweet allegedly protesting against the stand taken by a female journalist and (right) Ameesha Patel’s tweet about a male actor. 

Imran Khan, the first star to say ‘no’ to Twitter

In the middle of 2010, Imran Khan decided to go off Twitter because he couldn’t stand the vile abuses he was subjected to. Imran Khan never made a comeback unlike celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Anurag Kashyap, Sushant Singh Rajput, Rishi Kapoor and Aamir Khan who briefly quit Twitter, only to return in its fold sometime later.

The second actor to say no to Twitter is Katrina Kaif. The actress was successfully convinced by her PR team that she needs to step onto the social media bandwagon as the publicity of her film Bar Bar Dekho was about to begin. This step also made sense as her birthday was around the corner.

After a lot of deliberation with her team later, Katrina chose Facebook over Twitter. There were two major reasons for Katrina to shun Twitter. One, she didn’t have the inclination to tweet so regularly and second, the online abuse would have been too heavy for her to bear given the vulnerable state of her mind, due to her personal life.

But still there are celebrities like Vidya Balan and Abhishek Bachchan who soldier on and put up a brave front against all the abuse on Twitter because they can’t let go of the immense reach that they think they have on the platform.

Abhishek Bachchan is perhaps the most abused Twitter celebrity who refused to back down despite constant slander he faces on the platform.

But Twitter continues to be the way it is, despite celebrities continuing to complain how the platform has made life difficult for them.

I think the days of Twitter are numbered.

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