Tooter: All You Need to Know About India’s Twitter ‘Rival’

Similar to Twitter, users can create an account on Tooter and post short messages, called ‘Toots’.

Tooter, the ‘Indian alternative’ to social networking and microblogging platform Twitter has taken social media by storm. While it appears to have been launched in July this year, the platform recently went viral in the mainstream media.

Plugged as a ‘Swadeshi’ social network, Tooter has garnered over 10,000 downloads on Play Store. Tooter was originally a fork of the Mastodon project, an open-source program designed to let anybody run their own social media. Its social media platform, Mastodon, was launched in 2016 as an alternative to Twitter.

What is Tooter?

According to Tooter’s about page, Tooter is supposedly the answer to American social media platforms and the problems that come with it. Its bio says: “We believe that India should have a Swadeshi social network. Without one we are just a digital colony of the American Twitter India Company, no different than what we were under the British East India Company. Tooter is our Swadeshi Andolan 2.0. Join us in this Andolan.”

Similar to Twitter, users can create an account on Tooter and post short messages, called ‘Toots’. Toots can contain text, pictures, or videos, and users can follow and be followed by other users. Any users’ Toots will show up on their followers’ timelines, and they will receive notifications when they are mentioned in a Toot or receive a reply to their Toot, among others.

While its color scheme has similarities to Twitter, Tooter’s timeline resembles that of Facebook. To use Tooter, users can download the app on Google Play Store or sign up through the website tooter.in.

The platform appears to have verified accounts of some big names including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, Indian actress Deepika Padukone, and India cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Users can also upgrade to the Tooter Pro version by paying a yearly subscription of INR 1,000 (US$13.54). Once payment is made, the company instructs users to take a screenshot and send an email to upgrade@tooter.in along with their Tooter ID. However, the site has not mentioned how to make the payment, and there are few details regarding the features the Pro version offers.

The curious case of Tooter’s privacy and terms of service

Ironically, despite the company’s ‘desi’ stand, some parts of its policies seem to have foreign roots. For instance, according to The Indian Express, Tooter’s Privacy Policy had earlier stated that the company won’t provide user data to any person, “unless compelled by a court order issued by a U.S. court, except in cases of a life-threatening emergency.”

However, this statement has since been amended to say, “It is the policy of the Company to not provide any user data to any person unless compelled by a court order issued by an Indian court, except in cases of life-threatening emergency.”

Similarly, under the “Children Under the Age of 18” section of the policy, the website mentions, “California residents under 16 years of age may have additional rights regarding the collection and sale of their personal information. Please see Your California Privacy Rights (below) for more information.”

A LinkedIn user also pointed out the ‘Governing Law and Jurisdiction’ section under Terms of Service mentions that any claims or disputes “shall be governed and construed” in accordance with the internal laws of the State of Pennsylvania. This has since been updated by replacing “State of Pennsylvania” with “State of Telangana”.

Also, one of the prohibited activities had stated that a person may not “impersonate any person, or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person or organization, for a purpose not protected by the First Amendment.” The First Amendment appears to refer to that in the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment in the statement has now been changed to “Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.”

Other “desi” apps

Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved had launched Kimboh, a messaging platform as a rival to Facebook-owned WhatsApp in 2018. However, within days, it was removed from Play Store due to several privacy concerns in the app.

Similar to Tooter, another Swadeshi app called Koo was launched in March 2020 as a Twitter rival. A micro-blogging platform, it has an interface similar to that of Twitter, but offers users the option to message in four regional languages. The app, which has over 1 million downloads on the Google Play Store, also won the AatmaNirbhar App Innovation Challenge held by the Government of India in August 2020.

Following the Indian government’s ban on several Chinese apps since June this year, a slew of indigenous alternatives have sprouted. One such app is Mitron, a short video sharing app that capitalized on the ban on ByteDance-owned TikTok.

Other notable desi apps include Chingari, another TikTok alternative, and ShareChat, an Indian regional social media platform. FAU-G or Fearless and United Guards – a mobile action game similar to PUBG – is also slated to release this month.

Header image courtesy of Tooter

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