May 30, 2017

Resignations at iSpirt over trolling traced to founder

BYJayadevan PK

Update #1: Naveen Tewari, one of the the iSpirt members who reportedly quit over the strife in the organisation, has said that media reports are false. “The media reports stating that I am leaving iSpirt or GC is false,” Tewari wrote in an e-mail to iSpirt members.
At least two key members of India’s software products think tank iSpirt have resigned after its cofounder Sharad Sharma was found trolling people with views critical of India’s controversial biometric identity system Aadhaar.
Sharma is accused of operating the @Confident_India and @Indiaforward2 Twitter accounts.
Pallav Nadhani, the founder and chief executive of FusionCharts and Naveen Tewari, the cofounder of InMobi, are two iSpirt members who have quit over differences with other members of the volunteer organisation.
Times of India reported the development earlier today.
According to iSpirt members who spoke to FactorDaily on condition of anonymity, the organisation’s excessive focus on India Stack, the digital infrastructure built over Aadhaar, is what Nadhani and Tewari were uncomfortable with. “This has been the case for many months now,” said a source.

According to iSpirt members who spoke to FactorDaily on condition of anonymity, the organisation’s excessive focus on India Stack is what Pallav Nadhani and Naveen Tewari were uncomfortable with  

However, things came to a head over the weekend. iSpirt had constituted an internal committee to investigate the trolling fiasco. The committee comprises six members including Tewari, Nadhani, Aneesh Reddy, NRK Raman and Avinash Raghava, who works full time for iSpirt. Reddy is the cofounder of Capillary Technologies and Raman is the chairman of Nanobi analytics.
On Saturday, the committee met and came to a conclusion that Sharma, who had earlier apologised for the trolling, was to stop communicating on behalf of iSpirt externally for four months. It also decided to dissolve Sudham.

The internal committee set up to investigate the trolling fiasco decided to dissolve a program called Sudham, set up to respond to Aadhaar critics, and Sharma was to stop communicating on behalf of iSpirt externally for four months  

“Put it simply, I have learnt my lesson. One that should have been painfully clear to begin with. Such behaviour — uncivil comments made while hiding behind anonymity — is loathsome and abhorrent. And I will never engage in or condone such methods ever again,” Sharma had earlier written in his apology.
The apology, however, didn’t cut much ice with activists opposed to Aadhaar, who had been the subject of trolling. Bangalore based Kiran Jonnalagadda, who showed that the sock puppet accounts were linked to Sharma’s phone number, said: “I’m pained to point out that Sharad continues to not admit to being the person behind at least two troll accounts, instead merely admitting to ‘condoning’ the behaviour of unnamed persons.”
Aadhaar has become a heated topic of debate lately. The Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of petitions against the identity project and linking the unique identification number to various services.
Also read: ‘In a battle between staying anonymous and being unmasked, there is no excuse for being unprepared’
Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.

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Jayadevan PK is a writer of FactorDaily.