Indian Netizens Demand Turkish Engineer’s Social Media Site Back As Facebook, Twitter Ban Looms Large

Speculations of a ban on social media giants Twitter and Facebook have rekindled interest among Indian netizens in a long-forgotten networking site — Orkut.

On February 25, India’s Modi government had set a three-month deadline for various social media platforms to comply with its new Information Technology Rules 2021.

The new regulations stipulate the platforms to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer, and a nodal person. Non-compliance with the rules may lead these platforms to lose their status and protection as intermediaries.

Irrespective of the fate of Twitter and Facebook, a social networking site from a pre-Facebook era, Orkut, has now found a mention in online gossips.

India’s federal government had defined those with over 50 lakh registered users as “significant social media intermediaries”. The intermediary status provides the platforms with exemptions and immunity from liabilities for any third-party information or data held by them.

Hashtags #TwitterBan and #FacebookBan started trending as the deadlines for the social media giants Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp were to expire on May 26. None of the social media platforms have complied with the new regulations yet.

On May 25, Facebook said it intends to comply with the new provisions of the IT rules. Putting forward its commitment to the freedom of expression for all on its platform, it pointed out that certain issues still need to be clarified with the government. The company did not disclose any further details on it.

India’s new homegrown microblogging platform Koo had said that it has complied with the new set of rules. Its privacy policy, terms of use, and community guidelines reflect the changes.

Established in 2020, and with 6 million users, Koo app is one of the first social media intermediaries set under 2021 guidelines.

Governments Vs Social Media

The reach of social media has expanded over the years. Issues such as data privacy and security have occasionally brought the social media platforms and the governments around the world at loggerheads.

The same has been the case in India. In April 2021, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) issued an advisory against the Facebook-owned messaging platform Whatsapp. It warned the Whatsapp users about certain vulnerabilities, which may lead to a breach of sensitive user information.

Amid the deluge of the Covid-19 pandemic that the country found itself in April, social media particularly Facebook and Twitter offered the much-required helping hand. SOS calls for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, and critical medicines inundated these social media platforms for weeks. The SOS calls pitted these platforms against the government.

For the past month, the government ordered almost 100 social media posts to be deleted, which it believed, led to an environment of misinformation, panic, and negativity.

Last week Twitter tagged a post by the ruling party’s national spokesperson as “manipulated media”, a term usually used to represent fabricated or fake media. The Indian government termed Twitter’s action as “biased”.

Indian Netizens ‘Want Orkut Back’

Orkut might be obsolete now, but memes fondly remembering this once-popular social networking site started flooding the internet along with hashtags like #TwitterBan and #FacebookBan.

Soon after its launch in 2004, Orkut had taken India by storm. Owned and operated by Google, the service was aimed at helping users meet old friends and make new friends.

Named after its creator, Turkish engineer Orkut Buyukkokten, its popularity saw a massive increase in countries like India and Brazil.

In 2008, Orkut became one of the most visited websites in the two countries. In fact, its popularity in Brazil was so high, that in the same year, Google announced that Orkut will be managed and operated by Google Brazil from the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.

In India, Orkut had around 18 million users, and was one of the leading social media platforms, till its position was taken away with the rise of Facebook. In September 2014, Google announced the closure of Orkut.

Orkut Buyukkokten, a former product manager at Google, also developed the social networking services Club Nexus and inCircle.

In 2016, Orkut Buyukkokten launched a new social media networking service called Hello. The site is customized in English, French and Portuguese and is available both on iOS and Andriod.

By 2016, it was launched in the US, Canada, France, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Brazil. It was launched in India in 2018 but was unable to repeat its earlier success in the country.