“Those Shahrukh Khan selfies you see, are actually someone seeding an idea.”

CHENNAI, March 17: Amidst rising State censorship on news and content on media platforms, Twitter maintains its stand as a free speech company which has come at a huge cost, said Raheel Khursheed, head of News, Politics and Government of Twitter India at a press meet today at the Asian College of Journalism here.

Raheel Khursheed addressing the conference at ACJ


“The mechanisms we have set up for the State to ask us to censor content are fairly well-rounded. Even for terror investigations, they need a warrant under section 91 for us to start the proceeding to censor data,” said Mr. Khursheed.

His team works with newsrooms, politicians, government etc to help them reach out to public better and push their message in the most effective manner as possible through Twitter and its tools.

Talking about partnering with State governments, he spoke about Twitter’s collaboration with Tamil Nadu’s election commission to promote and ensure 100% voter participation in the upcoming State assembly elections. “We are driving a range of campaigns such as calendar invites to users that includes celebrity engagements and cross-media promotion.”

On being asked how they monitor misleading and foul tweets posted by politicians during elections, he answered that they have a mechanism in place that takes down abusive tweets.

His team also works on disaster response like during the recent Chennai floods, Twitter India streamlined data into two sections- actionable and non-actionable. “It was tough to draw a line between what is empathetic and what is actionable,” he said adding that an algorithm was made that gave leads to the army of the people in distress, which led to 12,000 rescues.

“The most exciting aspect of my job is figuring the intersection of customer service and governance,” he said talking about the recently launched Twitter product- Twitter Seva that clubs the grievances’ tweets for an easy redressal by the department concerned.  Currently, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian Railways and the Department of Police, Government of Karnataka has this app running.

Reminiscent of his days at Change.org he mentioned how during his two year tenure there, they brought about changes that were heart-warming like, getting a bridge across a disabled-friendly colony in Maharashtra to getting amendments in the rape law among others. “The kind of work I was doing at Change, I got to scale it up at Twitter”, he said adding how it took them six months to get the Bangalore Traffic Police Commissioner to sign the petition to order autos to charge by the meter; whereas on Twitter people can now tweet complaining of an auto and they’d get a response within four minutes.

He spoke about a Twitter experiment- Easy Read that stripped a news article of its media content and posted only the news, through which they found that users spent 30% more time on news than media content. Therefore he advised that number of clicks on an article should not be the yardstick to measure users’ interest.




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