In another attempt to go ‘Vocal for Local’, India has launched a new Swadeshi social network called ‘Tooter’ as a desi substitute to its almost-namesake Twitter. Tooter is a baby of the Mastadon project, an independent decentralized social network set up in 2017 that promised more freedom than Twitter.

So, what is Tooter? Let’s take a quick look.

What is Tooter?

The About page for Tooter provides the following description: “We believe that India should have a Swadeshi social network. Without one we are just a digital colony of the American Twitter India Company, no different than what we were under the British East India Company. Tooter is our Swadeshi Andolan 2.0. Join us in this Andolan. Join us!” Tooter made its debut in July, but has gained traction only now. Tweets on Twitter are replaced by ‘toots’ on Tooter. Moreover, Tooter has a blue ‘conch’ as its official logo.

Who has signed-up on Tooter?

Sveral high-profile people have already marked their presence on this new local social network. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Sadhguru have verified accounts on Tooter. BJP also has an official account on this site.

Also Read | RBI gets one million followers on Twitter, beats US Federal Reserve

What does Tooter offer?

Tooter is basically the Indian version of Twitter, providing almost all the same features as that of Twitter. Its design and user interface shares a bizarre similarity to Twitter. You have a profile, you can follow people, there is a news feed, and you can add your ‘toots’. It also marks its official handle with a blue colour.

How do you sign-up on Tooter?Tooter is available on Google Play Store. The app is not available for iOS users. Just enter your email-id, create a password and a new username, and you are a new member of Tooter. The official website for tooter is: tooter.in.

What is Tooter-Pro?

Tooter also offers an upgraded version- Tooter Pro. But, it is not mentioned what the upgraded version offers. The upgradation comes at a cost of Rs 1,000 per annum. However, the site does not guide you to the payment making platform. If you somehow manage to go forward with the payment, you are required to take a screenshot and email it with your tooter handle to upgrade @tooter.in.

What are the Terms of Service and Privacy?

While the app is an epitome of ‘Vocal for Local’, its ‘Terms of Service’ however, are still pan-American.

A section of the prohibited activities reads that a person may not “impersonate any person, or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person or organization, for a purpose not protected by the First Amendment.” The First Amendment mentioned here probably refers to the first amendment of the US constitution that protects the freedom of speech, religion and the press. The Indian Constitution’s first amendment talks empowering the state to take affirmative action for the advancement of any socially and economically backward classes or categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by restricting the application of fundamental rights.

It protects user data including email address, user profile unless compelled by a court order issued by a US court except in case of life threatening emergency. It warns users not to engage in any conspiracy or unlawful act. It further adds, “For avoidance of doubt, speech which is merely offensive or the expression of an offensive or controversial idea or opinion, as a general rule, will be in poor taste but will not be illegal in India.”

So, Tooter allows the expression of controversial opinions, without them being considered illegal. However, the definition of ‘controversial opinion’ is still not clear.

Is this India’s version of Parler?

Parler is a social networking platform popular among Donald Trump’s right-wing supporters, conservatives, and right-wing extremists, who feel prejudice from Twitter and Facebook. Since Tooter’s members are prominent leaders from India’s right wing, people are compelled to draw an analogy between the two. But, unlike Parler that claims to support free speech, Tooter does impose some limits on what you can or cannot say.