Snapchat, Uber face social media backlash over comments on India

Snapchat, Uber face social media backlash over comments on India

By Binu Paul

  • 17 Apr 2017
Snapchat, Uber face social media backlash over comments on India
Credit: Pexels

Snap Inc., owner of the popular messaging app Snapchat, and cab-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. came under fire from Indians on social media after their top officials allegedly made uncomplimentary statements.

According to a report by US publication Variety, former Snapchat employee Anthony Pompliano filed a lawsuit where CEO Evan Spiegel allegedly said he didn’t wish to expand to “poor countries like India and Spain”.

Separately, Christian Freese, general manager at Uber’s Bangalore office, irked the Twitterati when he told The New York Times that “folks (Indians) were rather locked up at home” before the company launched its operations and that people were now going out, especially on the weekend.


The disparaging comments by two global Internet companies united an otherwise divisive Twitter population in India as they came charging at the tech giants with #boycottsnapchat and #uninstallsnapchat hashtags.


This is Snapchats loss. Google and Facebook made India a priority because they understood the market potential and had more diverse teams

— Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) April 15, 2017


Nothing-their call.But dissing it ,this being the reason,condescending , generalising about country / people - poor taste for Ceo/ founder


— K.Ganesh (@ganeshk03) April 16, 2017

The campaign against the company, which recently raised about $3.4 billion through an initial public offering, brought the Snapchat application ratings down to one star on the Apple App Store.


Just in 1 day the rating dropped to!1 star! Now feeling bad for the poor Indians & Spaniards who work at #snapchat

— Amrita Ganguly (@GangulyAmrita) April 16, 2017

While it’s no surprise the mob mentality can drag any company to social media perils, especially when it comes to matters of national pride, the fact that the controversy was triggered by allegations made by a former employee whose stint at Snapchat lasted just three weeks needs to be considered.

According to a Hindustan Times report, Snapchat rubbished Pompliano’s claims and said, “This is ridiculous. Obviously Snapchat is for everyone! It’s available worldwide to download for free.”

Another report by the same publication said a group of Indian hackers had released data of nearly 1.7 million Snapchat users to protest Spiegel’s comments.

Meanwhile, the Press Trust of India reported that many people uninstalled the mobile application of Indian e-commerce platform Snapdeal instead of 'Snapchat' to mark their protest. Interestingly, Snapdeal was a victim of social media trolling when its former brand ambassador Aamir Khan made a comment about his wife’s concerns over growing intolerance in India.

@thetanmay Thanks bud. Ppl asking us to make a statement that @snapdeal is not @snapchat was possibly the last thing I thought I would ever need to do.

— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) April 16, 2017

After spending Rs.200 crores on branding @snapdeal must be wondering today why people can't make out it's not @Snapchat

— Mahesh Murthy (@maheshmurthy) April 16, 2017

On the other hand, the statement from Uber India’s executive has definitely dented its social media popularity as several Indians slammed the taxi aggregator for the insensitive statement.

Yes @nytimes - before Uber, Indians just sat fretting by the windows, seeing a great big world they couldn't access.

— gopalsathe (@gopalsathe) April 15, 2017

Well, to be honest, before Uber we just rode our elephants every day. For weekends, we had our decorated elephants. (via @IMSahilBhalla)

— Sarita Ramamoorthy (@ViolentVeggy) April 15, 2017

Uber has been fighting a hard battle with homegrown rival Ola for market superiority. It has also been rocked by a number of setbacks lately, including detailed accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing chief executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

Uber is looking for a chief operating officer to help Kalanick manage the company, repair its tarnished image and improve its culture. Two of Uber’s high-level executives recently said they intended to leave, and last week the company’s communications head announced her departure.

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