New Delhi: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Wednesday took to micro-blogging site Koo, to respond to Twitter’s blogpost on blocking some accounts on the orders of the Indian government.
“Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the Govt., the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Govt. will share its response soon,” the IT ministry posted on Koo.
This comes a day after Union minister Piyush Goyal announced that he will now be on Koo, a made-in-India app that has features similar to Twitter.
“I am now on Koo. Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for real-time, exciting and exclusive updates. Let us exchange our thoughts and ideas on Koo,” Goyal tweeted Tuesday.
I am now on Koo.
Connect with me on this Indian micro-blogging platform for real-time, exciting and exclusive updates.
Let us exchange our thoughts and ideas on Koo.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) February 9, 2021
Soon after, several other leaders and government departments also joined Twitter’s ‘desi’ alternative.
Desi Twitter alternative, Koo, has MeitY and several other government bodies on its microblogging platform…
— #weservedilse_DCPNewDelhi (@DCPNewDelhi) February 9, 2021
Listen to interesting thoughts by nitiaayog on the app – https://t.co/W6h1tMViQ8
स्वागत नहीं करोगे हमारा?
— NITI Aayog (@NITIAayog) February 9, 2021
#ToolkitPlot | Farmers in Punjab have been suffering on various fronts for years; what have Congress and Akali Dal done for them?: @RatanSharda55; Join the conversation on Republic's official new Koo App account #LIVE here – https://t.co/Nv2XkcZn7v pic.twitter.com/VL3um3Xesl
— Republic (@republic) February 7, 2021
Indians making a beeline to join Koo comes days after Twitter India withheld several accounts for allegedly making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets” with hashtags accusing the Narendra Modi government of planning farmers “genocide”.
What is Koo?
Google Play Store defines Koo as a “Personal Updates and Opinion sharing micro-blogging platform” that “empowers people to express their thoughts in Indian languages with a strong knit local Indian community”.
Koo also won the AatmaNirbhar App Innovation Challenge organised by the government in August 2020.
The app from Bengaluru, founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, is available in several Indian languages including Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi. It has nearly 3 million downloads and 1 million active users.
Radhakrishna told ThePrint the app was officially launched in March 2020, but the development work started in November 2019.
He said the number of downloads has gone up manifolds in the last 48 hours.
“We have 10X the number of downloads that we used to get on a usual day. Last 48 hours have been the highest number of users we have seen so far on Koo,” Radhakrishna said.
He also said leaders from several political parties are already on Koo. “Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar, JDS stalwarts Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy are all on the Koo Kannada platform already.”
In February, the app raised $4.1 million from existing investors Accel, Kalaari Capital, Blume Ventures and Dream Incubator, along with a new investor 3one4 Capital.
Radhakrishna is also the co-founder of cab aggregator TaxiForSure, which was acquired by Ola for $200 million in 2015.
What can be done on Koo? How does it work?
Koo is similar to Twitter but has some additional features. It has a 400-character text limit, against Twitter’s 280. Besides, there are voice and video features for users who do not want to type, and users can upload longer videos — up to 10 minutes. The app also allows automatic translation from English to local languages.
Radhakrishna describes Koo as a hyperlocal app. “Connect with the world would happen through Twitter. Deeper connect with Indians will happen through Koo.”
The app also shows users hashtags relevant to their community. “Karnataka trends can be seen in the Kannada community instead of national all the time,” said Radhakrishna.
Currently, some of the top hashtags on Koo include ‘modi shows the way’, ‘arrest all instigators’, ‘ban twitter’, and ‘andolan jivi’.
When asked about Koo’s approach to free speech, Radhakrishna said, “Koo is a platform that was formed to bring the voice of the Indian language speaker online. We truly believe in freedom of speech…In cases of life threat whether it is self harm or threat to several lives we will abide by the law of land and will be the same irrespective of the govt in power.”
He added: “We are a 10-month-old company. We will work with the government to ensure we give comfort and clarity to the users on what are the exceptions such as threat to life will be handled.”