Koo, the indigenously developed social media app was formerly known as Ku Koo Ku. The company has, however, sizable Chinese investment but the majority of shares lie with the Indian promoter. It also won the Government of India’s Atma Nirbhar App Innovation Challenge in August 2020. Therefore, the latest development in Nigeria augurs well for this start-up. It now has a major presence in the African country mainly due to the suspension of Twitter on account of its unprofessional attitude. This was clearly a big opportunity for Koo, a Twitter look-alike microblogging platform. This means a lot for the Indian social media ecospace as Koo is a homegrown channel that was established only last year. The founders of Koo were smart enough to have hard sold its India-based operations and willing to follow instructions from the Nigerian government and law enforcement. Koo was launched as an alternative to the widely popular Twitter.
India based social networking company was trying hard to get a foothold in Nigeria after the African country suspended Twitter in the first week of June, two days after it deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules. This was unprecedented and Nigerian authorities didn’t take it lightly. And Twitter understandably had to pay the price. As a matter of fact, @kooindia was already operating in Nigeria, and the ban on Twitter came as a big opportunity for them. They wasted no time and made the right moves, and now it’s planning to enable Koo with the local languages.
The CEO of Koo, Radhakrishnan revealed this to his followers through a tweet which drew a lot of suggestions from Twitter users. Koo has reasons to feel happy because just a week after the indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operations was announced by the Nigerian government on June 4, multiple accounts for the Government of Nigeria and other government officials were created on Indian microblogging platform, Koo. Later on, all these accounts were verified with a yellow badge and have now started giving regular official updates. In a very short duration, a large number of people have joined Koo and the Government of Nigeria page now has more than 49,000 followers, compared to the 1.4 million followers on its Twitter page. Koo has positioned itself as a viable alternative to Twitter because of its less stringent moderation policies.
Koo, with its head office located at Bengaluru, is a yellow-coloured avatar of Twitter. The upcoming social media platform was founded last year by Mr Radhakrishna, an Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad alumnus, and Mayank Bidawatka. According to Forbes India, Koo has raised more than $34 million in funding so far. Although it didn’t disclose how many users it currently has, it’s widely estimated that it’s targeting 100 million users in the next couple of years.
Of late, Twitter is also in the news in India because of its recent trouble with the government of India. In fact, members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet and diehard supporters of the ruling BJP were jubilant on Koo’s recent achievement. They are also very keen to find an alternative to Twitter which has been increasingly prone to run-ins with the ruling establishment for quite some time.Koo’s founders were clever to convince the Nigerian government about its abilities to step inside the shoes of more popular Twitter to provide a viable alternative. It agreed to most conditions and instructions from the government that Twitter found difficult to comply with. However, Koo has also faced concerns about data privacy and security.
In the past, Twitter has been involved in a lot of controversies that could have been avoided. It gave a platform to dissent that goes back to the Arab Spring movement. Twitter’s problem with governments across the world, like the one we currently see in Nigeria, represents a window of opportunity for the more pro-establishment start-ups. And Koo perfectly fits the bill.Twitter rubbed authorities in Nigeria the wrong way when early June it deleted a remark on President Buhari’s account for violating regulations after he gave reference to his own country’s civil war as a warning to the present unrest in the southeast.
It took only two days for Nigerian information ministry to suspend Twitter indefinitely. The reasons cited for suspension was its persistent use of the platform for activities that undermines Nigeria’s corporate existence. Although the government’s decision was immediately denounced by rights groups who claimed the move was a repressive action and attempt to censor dissent & stifle the civic space.Bulama Bukarti, an activist on Twitter said that the action was tantamount to muzzling the freedom of expression that is so common in dictatorships. It’s not the first time that social media platforms like Twitter have faced restrictions under authoritarian regimes like in China, Turkey and more recently Myanmar.