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Senior counsel @Sanjayuvacha Hedge boosts open-source Twitter-rival Mastodon post legal notice over platform ban

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, also known to many by his Twitter handle @sanjayuvacha, creates mini-exodus to Mastodon
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, also known to many by his Twitter handle @sanjayuvacha, creates mini-exodus to Mastodon

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who has been one of Twitter’s more prolific and active lawyers (with 37,330 tweets as of 2015 and 98,000 followers more recently), has been banned from the platform and has sent a legal notice to the social media giant, according to The Print.

And, after his espousing a decentralised and fully open-source alternative software to Twitter, Mastodon, it has sent the #Mastodon hashtag trending on Twitter in India and users flocking to sign-up.

The Hindu even asked in a headline today: “Social network Mastodon is trending in India; should Twitter worry?" (in accordance with Betteridge’s law of headlines, the concluding quote suggests no).

The sales pitch of Mastodon, besides not being owned by any company, is that moderation purports to be far more aggressive at weeding out trolls and abuse than Twitter or Facebook (at least that claims to be the case on many so-called “instances”, or independent servers, each of which can set its own moderation and community guidelines and levels of enforcement; nevertheless, you as a user on one instance can still interact with users on others, unless the others’ instance has been blanket blocked by yours).

Nevertheless, if Mastodon takes on enough new users in India for it to be a self-sustaining ecosystem, that could end up being of greater concern to Twitter than a legal notice.

Blue Elephant vs Blue Bird
Blue Elephant vs Blue Bird

Flicking off the bird

Over the course of Hegde’s Twitter career, he had been criticising the government very actively on the platform but, according to the Print:

His account was suspended on 26 October in relation to his ‘cover photo’, an image of August Landmesser standing with his arms crossed in the middle of a crowd of people making the Nazi salute in 1936.

His account was briefly restored but then suspended again over a ‘quote-tweet’ where he shared a post on Gorakh Pandey’s poem ‘Usko Phaansi De Do’.

Twitter had blocked his account for showcasing “hateful imagery”, in the former case, and in the latter case for having retweeted Kavita Krishnan’s poem in 2017.

His appeal via Twitter’s internal appeals processes, however, had been unsuccessful (with the blue bird requiring him to delete the ‘offending tweets’).

He has today sent a legal notice to Twitter, via his lawyer Pranjal Kishore, demanding a public apology for damaging his reputation, or face a defamation law suit.

Paving the way for a constitutional challenge, he has also sent a letter to law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, arguing that “social media platforms discharge an ‘essential public function’ in today’s world, as a result of which the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) should be enforceable against such platforms even though they are private entities”, according to the Print.

In an interview with LiveLaw on 5 November, Hegde said that trolls had reported his posts for political reasons and he vowed to challenge Twitter, including suing them abroad if required.

“Twitter cannot be the East India Company of free speech and say I am the viceroy and I decide”, he told Livelaw, adding that he would migrate to decentralised Twitter-inspired social network Mastodon.

Update 22:06: Click here to follow us @, where will be posting links to our latest articles. You can sign-up to Mastodon at mastodon.social fairly smoothly. It’s a lot less noisy than Twitter, so your mileage may vary... Here’s a good summary of how it works, for it’s not your average Twitter or Facebook.

Update 23:27: Hegde has single-handedly made the three-year-old Mastodon software popular in India and now has 1,100 followers there (though the open source Twitter-clone is unlikely to eclipse its feathered forebear anytime soon).

On Twitter, meanwhile, his original account remains suspended and an account not operated by Hegde, under the handle @Sanjayuvacha1, has already popped up and is actively tweeting.

Update 19:55: Bar & Bench has uploaded a copy of legal notice to Twitter:

Sanjay Hedge legal notice vs Twitter (PDF)

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