Rahul Gandhi writes to Twitter CEO, points to drop in his follower count

Twitter is perhaps unwittingly complicit in “curbing free and fair speech” in India, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote to the platform’s CEO Parag Agrawal last month, claiming that his follower count on the platform has not increased since his account was temporarily suspended in August 2021.

Gandhi in his letter dated December 27, 2021, said Twitter should not become a “pawn in the destruction of the idea of India” and argued that it has an “enormous responsibility to ensure that it does not actively help in the growth of authoritarianism in India.”

Asserting that the ideological battle between liberal democracy and authoritarianism across the world is being shaped on social media platforms, he said, “This places a huge responsibility on those that are at the helm of companies such as Twitter… I want to bring your attention to what I believe is Twitter’s unwitting complicity in curbing free and fair speech in India.”

Gandhi claimed “there is an ongoing assault on India’s institutional framework and a complete capture of traditional mainstream media” which has been “discussed extensively both in India and abroad.”

“Hence, social media platforms like Twitter have become an important channel to raise people’s issues and hold the Government to account. In this backdrop, it is perplexing that the growth in my Twitter followers has suddenly been suppressed. With nearly 20 million followers, my Twitter account has been very active, adding an average of eight to ten thousand new followers every day.”

“For example, in May 2021, my account gained roughly 640,000 new followers. This had been the case for several years until July 2021. Then something strange happened. Since August 2021, the average number of my new monthly Twitter followers has fallen to nearly zero. There is an inflection point after which my Twitter account seems to have been paralysed,” the former Congress president wrote.

Gandhi also attached analysis by “social media experts.”

He said it was during that time he had “raised the plight of a rape victim’s family in Delhi, stood in solidarity with farmers and fought the government on many other human rights issues.”

“I have been reliably, albeit discreetly, informed by people at Twitter India that they are under immense pressure by the government to silence my voice. My account was even blocked for a few days for no legitimate reason. There were many other Twitter handles, including government ones, which had tweeted similar photos of the same people. None of these accounts were blocked. My account was singularly targeted,” he said.

Gandhi’s Twitter account was “temporarily” suspended on August 8, 2021, a day after a photograph posted by him with the family of the nine-year-old Dalit rape victim was taken down by the microblogging site.

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