In November 2015, when Aamir Khan made a statement regarding increasing intolerance in India, Snapdeal had to bear the brunt of the anger of pseudo-nationalists who were offended by Aamir’s statement and went on a rampage by giving the Snapdeal app thousands of 1-star ratings because Aamir Khan was Snapdeal’s brand ambassador. Something similar is happening today. On April 11th, a former employee of Snapchat alleged in a lawsuit filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel had once stated in a strategy meeting that their application was only for rich people and hence he doesn’t want to expand to poor countries like India and Spain. This news was published by multiple International media outlets between April 11th-13th.
Indian media woke up to this news a few days later, and multiple Indian media outlets covered this issue starting April 15th. Here’s a sample:
While most of the coverage by International media outlets clearly state in the title of the article that the claim is by a former employee, Indian media which routinely indulges in competitive clickbait-ism twisted the title and attributed the statement to the Snapchat CEO without bothering to mention that the claim is actually by a former employee. They couldn’t even bother to use the word ‘allegedly’. Eventually, some media outlets realised their folly and added ‘allegedly’ at a later point in time. One such example was Economic Times.
Such was the shameful coverage and it was not limited to one or two outlets. Practically every major Indian media outlet wrote identical titles for this story. That is how deeply entrenched this malaise of clickbait-ism is. An unproven claim by a former employee was portrayed as a statement made by the Snapchat CEO.
With article titles like such, many were bound to believe that the Snapchat CEO actually made a statement suggesting that he won’t do business in India because it is a poor country. Now the Snapchat CEO as alleged said the same thing about both India and Spain. While Spain is not a poor country per se with a per capita income six times that of India, even then, not many in Spain could be bothered enough to outrage about such a statement.
However, we Indians outrage if Maria Sharapova suggests that she doesn’t know Sachin Tendulkar, we outrage if Piers Morgan suggests that the amount India was celebrating after winning only 2 Olympic medals is over the board, we outrage if some random merchant on Amazon Canada sells doormats with the Indian flag even though the same merchant sells doormats with flags of other countries as well. That is how much we love to outrage. How dare the CEO of Snapchat say that he won’t do business because India is poor?
What followed was what could be described as ‘digital carnage’. #boycottsnapchat hashtag trended the entire day on social media and tens of thousands of people gave a 1-star rating to Snapchat on both Google’s Play store and Apple’s App store. Snapchat’s average rating on Apple’s App store is down to 1 star from 4 stars in the last 24 hours.
People on social media sent out messages asking their friends/followers to uninstall the app and give it a 1-star. The following tweet by a parody account called @SirJadeja got retweeted over 2.5k times.
Those sort of messages led to tens of thousands people attacking Snapchat’s review section on Google Play Store. Snapchat received close to 2.2 lakh 1-star ratings in less than a day on Google’s play store.
People also left hundreds of reviews and some of which were hilarious.
Many people tagged Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s Twitter account and reminded him how India is not poor. Doesn’t matter that we rank a lowly 137 in the world according to World Bank’s gross domestic product per capita statistics. Here’s ABVP’s Diksha Verma, who was recently caught assaulting others in Ramjas collage, reminding Evan Speigel how he who’s the CEO of a 5 year old company has less worth than Mukesh Ambani who’s presiding over a company founded in 1966. What a revelation!
However, the attacks were not limited to the Snapchat CEO, even his fiancée Miranda Kerr’s Instagram account were filled with comments of how his fiancé is a bad person and how India is not poor.
While Snapchat, Snapchat’s CEO and Snapchat CEO’s fiancée were being attacked, some people mistook Snapchat for Snapdeal, and started giving 1-star ratings to Snapdeal and uninstalling Snapdeal.
Snapdeal probably had to face the brunt since Snapchat is truly not that popular in India, and people mistook it for Snapdeal. Plus, as the recent reviews show, there was some of the leftover anger against Snapdeal for having Aamir Khan as their ambassador in 2015. Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl took to Twitter to express his anger and helplessness.
That is how India media’s rampant clickbait journalism and the misplaced notion of nationalism that has lately engulfed us Indians led to the digital harakiri that we witnessed yesterday.