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Rediff.com  » News » In India, Twitter's Dorsey offers politicians tools to go viral

In India, Twitter's Dorsey offers politicians tools to go viral

November 13, 2018 12:53 IST

During his maiden visit to India, the 41-year-old, nose ring-sporting Dorsey wants “to experience everything”, according to a tweet he posted on November 10, but mainly reach out to all political parties and meet government officials -- at the Centre and in states -- as well as senior police officer and civic body officials, so that he can assist in delivering governance through Twitter. This will also help the social media giant chalk out its next stage of expansion, report Karan Choudhury and Archis Mohan.

IMAGE: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey interacted with staff and students at IIT-Delhi in a town hall during which he said the company was considering an edit option, but they didn't want to rush it. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo

In the general elections next year, Twitter is likely to be the biggest campaign manager for political parties -- or at least that’s what its Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey would like.

During his maiden visit to India, the 41-year-old, nose ring-sporting Dorsey wants “to experience everything”, according to a tweet he posted on November 10. He might do a few touristy things -- going to Jaipur, or getting his ring pulled by the Dalai Lama -- but his six-day trip has other things on the itinerary.

 

He wants to reach out to all political parties and meet government officials -- at the Centre and in states -- as well as senior police officer and civic body officials, so that he can assist in delivering governance through Twitter. This will also help the social media giant chalk out its next stage of expansion.

IMAGE: Dorsey also launched its '#PowerOf18' initiative aimed at encouraging Indian youth to contribute to public debate and participate in civic engagement in the upcoming election season. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo

Sources in Twitter said Dorsey would meet senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office as well as senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. “Though it is not final yet, there might be a meeting with the prime minister as well,” said a source in Dorsey’s India visit team.

Dorsey will be offering all the tools Twitter used in the 2016 United States presidential elections to social media team of political parties in India. Sources in the company said it was planning to hire many social media experts to assist political parties in their online outreach. Workshops might be conducted for student wings of these parties.

Its BlueRoom initiative might feature interviews with leaders of political parties and student unions, as well as political commentators.

Twitter could also provide electoral badges -- used widely in the 2016 US elections -- to candidates. “Twitter plans to design and bring out a series of new labels that will appear on the profiles and tweets of candidates. This branding exercise which will help create a unique profile of a candidate,” said a source close to the company.

IMAGE: Dorsey takes a selfie with a faculty member of IIT Delhi. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo

The company is also talking to major political parties to create more verified accounts of various candidates.

“This will help political parties understand how social media influencers work. How they can make tweets trend. Types of a Twitter profile a candidate should have to increase the number of followers,” added the source.

Twitter will also create specific emoticons and hashtags for political parties.

Sources said Dorsey met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and senior party leaders such as Randeep Singh Surjewala, social media head Divya Spandana and Nikhil Alva. Discussions on how the party’s social media handles can do better to attract followers and change sentiments were held.

IMAGE: Twitter CEO also met Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and senior party leaders such as Randeep Singh Surjewala, social media head Divya Spandana and Nikhil Alva. Photograph: PTI Photo

Twitter, which counts India as its priority markets, has a large number of Indian politicians using it to engage with citizens, especially around elections.

“In a number of conversations, it’s become more important that we scope the problem as tightly as possible because fake news or misinformation as a category is way too big,” he said while addressing a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

He added if certain content was found to be misleading, it was Twitter’s job to ensure that such information was picked out and prevented from spreading.

“If the intent (of the content) is to mislead, we need to understand and pick out this information and then it’s our job to ensure it doesn’t spread and our job is to ensure it doesn’t gain the impressions beyond its given reach,” he said.

Dorsey said artificial intelligence could help build a solution that may be near perfect. Social media firms have been facing the menace of rumours and fake news floating on their platforms. Organisations such as Facebook and WhatsApp have taken a number of steps, including sensitisation programmes among users across the country.

Twitter on Monday also launched its #PowerOf18 initiative aimed at encouraging Indian youth to contribute to public debate and participate in civic engagement in the elections.

Karan Choudhury and Archis Mohan in New Delhi
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