How “Swadeshi” is Tooter If It Clones Far-Right Platforms Like Gab?


How “Swadeshi” is Tooter If It Clones Far-Right Platforms Like Gab?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Indian Twitter had a field day earlier this week when they collectively stumbled upon Tooter, a “swadeshi” alternative to the massively popular social media platform. On its homepage, Tooter proudly declares itself to be “Made in India”, and greets visitors with a message that proclaims “Welcome to Swadeshi Andolan 2.0”. But for all the bluster that greets you when you visit the homepage, Tooter itself appears to be little more than a clone of a clone – that is, the idea behind Tooter was directly lifted from already existing Twitter alternatives like Parler and Gab. And calling it a clone is more than just a figure of speech, because many users reported, Tooter was literally cloning the application programming interface (API) of Gab on its backend.

Pratik Sinha, the editor of fact-checking platform AltNews also shared similar findings. He also highlighted how Gab had quickly become a haven for extremist speech and conservative propaganda for its users in the United States, suggesting that Tooter could also follow a similar trajectory in India.

After becoming the butt of many jokes and memes on Twitter, this latest challenge to Tooter’s “swadeshi” branding is sure to invite another round of mockery. For starters, one needs either a Gmail or Yahoo ID to even sign up to the platform, neither of which are Indian companies. Secondly, the visual aesthetic, down to the logo’s outline, seems to closely mimic Twitter, a platform to which it claims to be an alternative. And now, with even its backend coding being lifted from another foreign company, it seems the platform giving itself the “swadeshi” tag is just a case of wishful thinking.

Much like TikTok alternatives Chingari and Mitron, and WhatsApp alternatives Kimbho and Bolo, it appears that Tooter will follow the cycle of proudly announcing its arrival, being exposed as inferior, and meekly fading away into irrelevance.