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Inside Indian app Koo, where Nigerians are migrating to after a Twitter ban

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Almost a week after the indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operations announced by the Nigerian government took effect on June 4, accounts for the “Government of Nigeria” and other government officials were created on Indian microblogging platform, Koo.

All the accounts created were afterwards verified with a yellow badge and have started putting out regular official updates. The Government of Nigeria page has amassed 49,000 followers, compared to the 1.4 million followers on its Twitter page. Koo presents itself as a Twitter alternative with less stringent moderation policies.

Koo’s CEO, Aprameya Radhakrishna, welcomed the Nigerian government to the app, also announcing their first international extension plan into Africa’s most populous country and their plans to use local Nigerian languages on the app. Growth in India was bolstered by government support and the use of local languages. However, it remains uncertain whether Koo will thrive in the diverse Nigerian market in the same way it did in its home market, India, where it has over 6 million users.

Koo filling a vacuum during the Twitter ban

As Koo leverages the Twitter ban vacuum to expand in Nigeria, Nigerians, particularly the Arewa youth who are leading socio-political movements in the northern part of the country, are switching to the platform as a way of continuing online public conversations about their interests.

“I consider it a worthy alternative to Twitter. It has richer features compared to the app,” says Ayobami Adewuyi, a digital marketing expert and HR analyst, who recently created an account on Koo and spoke about her user experience. “For instance, it has a dedicated button to directly share stuff from there to other social media. I find the dedicated WhatsApp icon right beside the re-Koo button ingenious.” Whatsapp is the most popular social media platform in Nigeria. It is used by 93% of internet users in the country according to a study by Datareportal.

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She also likes Koo’s longer 400-character limit, as compared to Twitter’s 280 characters. She believes that with some tweaks, Koo could become the go-to microblogging platform in Nigeria and that the Twitter ban gives it some time to expand in the market.

The long road ahead for Koo’s growth in Nigeria

Adewuyi’s enthusiasm is not shared with everyone. Olumide Glowville, a Nigerian social media analyst and content strategist, doesn’t believe Koo “will usurp Twitter in Nigeria anytime soon, if ever. If we go by the general trend of mass social media adoption, Koo has not fulfilled any of the basics. It is at best an opportunistic platform that will struggle to maintain its hold if or when circumstances change.”

He says for Koo to gain massive acceptance and patronage, top influencers, celebrities, opinion shapers, content creators, and even politicians must endorse, use it, and share content from there to other platforms. Without that, there is no fear of missing out (FOMO), which is one thing a digital platform of this age needs to thrive.

With the Koo app having 6 million users compared to Twitter’s reported 152 million daily active users in 2019, even the Nigerian government’s enthusiastic uptake of the app can only push it so far, believes Babatunde Akin-Moses, an economic and tech policy analyst and CEO of Sycamore NG, a financial services firm. He says, “Koo is not an effective platform for the government to get its message out to the world, seeing that the reach is significantly limited.”

Since Koo’s entry into Nigeria, high-profile personalities in the Nigerian political and activism spaces have been dissociating themselves from fake Koo accounts created in their names. But despite the ban and an arrest threat, Nigerian Twitter users have been bypassing the local restriction to continue tweeting through Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and the hashtag #KeepItOn has been trending. According to recent analysis by Top10VPN, an independent UK-based review platform, the increase in the demand for VPN services in Nigeria has risen to over 1,400%.

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In the meantime though, Akin-Moses notes that the government’s current friendly approach to Koo is good for Koo in terms of being able to boost their user base in Nigeria as long as they keep complying with local laws. He anticipates though that the good days will be short-lived, saying, “Koo wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize this opportunity. But when Koo gets tens of millions of followers, it may also start getting demands to censor content. That will be a good time to test the principles and resolve of the platform.”

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021


Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Twitter Bans Sharing Personal Photos, Videos of Other People Without Consent

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Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent, in a tightening of the network’s policy just a day after it changed CEOs.

Under the new rules, people who are not public figures can ask Twitter to take down pictures or video of them that they report were posted without permission.

Beginning today, we will not allow the sharing of private media, such as images or videos of private individuals without their consent. Publishing people’s private info is also prohibited under the policy, as is threatening or incentivizing others to do so.https://t.co/7EXvXdwegG

— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 30, 2021

Twitter said this policy does not apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” the company added.

The right of Internet users to appeal to platforms when images or data about them are posted by third parties, especially for malicious purposes, has been debated for years.

Twitter already prohibited the publication of private information such as a person’s phone number or address, but there are “growing concerns” about the use of content to “harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals,” Twitter said.

The company noted a “disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

High-profile examples of online harassment include the barrages of racist, sexist,and homophobic abuse on Twitch, the world’s biggest video game streaming site.

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But instances of harassment abound, and victims must often wage lengthy fights to see hurtful, insulting or illegally produced images of themselves removed from the online platforms.

Some Twitter users pushed the company to clarify exactly how the tightened policy would work.

“Does this mean that if I take a picture of, say, a concert in Central Park, I need the permission of everyone in it? We diminish the sense of the public to the detriment of the public,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.

The change came the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced he was leaving the company, and handed CEO duties to company executive Parag Agrawal.

The platform, like other social media networks, has struggled against bullying, misinformation, and hate-fuelled content.


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Twitter likely to roll out ‘Reactions’ feature soon

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After unveiling several features this year, micro-blogging site Twitter is reportedly readying new features, including Reactions, Downvotes and Sorted Replies for iOS users.

According to reverse engineer Nima Owji, the Reactions feature, which started being tested a couple of months ago, is set to launch soon, reports 9To5Mac.

With four new reactions, “tears of joy,” “thinking face,” “clapping hands” and “crying face,” this feature is designed to give users the ability to better show how conversations make them feel and to give users “a better understanding of how their Tweets are received”.

Citing the reverse engineer, the report also mentioned that the micro-blogging site is now able to store data about the downvotes feature, which is another indicator that this function will be released sooner rather than later.

The report also notes that the company changed the downvote position as well. It has even added a new tab explaining how downvotes work.

This month, the company has rolled out its in-app tipping feature to all Android users above the age of 18, following the iOS launch in September.

Twitter said the “Tips” feature is geared toward users looking to get a little financial support from their followers through Cash App, PayPal, Venmo and Patreon directly through the app.

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