iSpirt founder apologises for attacking anti-Aadhaar Twitteratis

Sharad Sharma, prominent angel investor and founder of iSpirt apologised in an open letter admitting to being the man behind the pro-Aadhaar troll accounts on Twitter

May 24, 2017 / 06:17 PM IST

Sharad Sharma, the co-founder of startup think tank iSpirt, has admitted being posting anonymous tweets, targeting and criticising specific people including Kiran Jonnalagadda, the co-founder of HasGeek and Internet Freedom Foundation for opposing Government's Aadhaar program.

iSPIRT has also formed an internal committee to investigate the issue, especially when the lobby was accused of running an army of Twitter trolls to target anti-Aadhaar tweets.

The Aadhaar enrollment process implemented by the UIDAI has fetched much criticism lately as experts have said that a person's linking financial details with the 12-digit UID number is vulnerable to data theft.

In a series of tweets, multiple anonymous Twitter trolls started to threaten Jonnalagadda among others that their activities call for 'jail' terms alleging them of being involved in corruption.

"Anonymity seemed easier than propriety and tired as I was by personal events and attacks on iSpirt’s reputation, I slipped," Sharma tweeted also apologising for his "comments".

However, it was not immediately clear from his tweets if he was operating more than one anonymous twitter account. An official e-mail to iSPIRT did not elicit any response till the time the article was published, even as multiple members declined to comment.

The needle was pointed towards Sharma after it was observed that one of the trolls @Confident_India and Sharma through his Twitter handle @sharads were posting similar looking tweets.

It also appeared that Sharma later fumbled and used one of the anonymous twitter handle to post his personal opinion/denial saying that he was not behind these trolls.

According to Sharma, he is not a part of the investigative committee looking into the matter and will abide by their decision.

In an article on medium, Jonnalagadda has stated that iSPIRT has an officially sanctioned trolling program where the trolls coordinated on WhatsApp and attacked together on Twitter.

Sharma is one of the co-founders of iSpirt and a prominent voice related to government policies on startups and technology sector in India. He has also been an active angel investor.

Nandan Nilekani lauds Sharma for admission

Some leading voices have lauded Sharma to have come out in the open. Nandan Nilekani, the architect of the UIDAI which runs the Aadhaar program lauded Sharma in a tweet.



The last couple of weeks hasn't been quite good for those operating anonymous Twitter accounts in India.

Last week, Chennai-based startup mentor Vijay Anand accused an anonymous Twitter handle Unicon Baba claiming him to be Rajan Gupta, a senior executive of U2opia Mobile.

Though Unicon Baba later denied the allegation adding that he had sympathy for Gupta but could not help him by disclosing his identity.

Sumesh Menon, chief executive officer of Utopia told Moneycontrol that the incident has nothing to do with the company and was an allegation between two individuals.

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"It just happens that this person is an employee of the company which has 150 people. He is one of the team members. As an employer, we are looking at his KRA. We don't even know what the regulations for these things are and as a company, it has nothing to do with us," Menon said.

Here is what iSpirt said on the issue: 

"iSpirt has had tremendous support from various quarters incl the government, regulators, industry bodies, enterprises and product startups as well as many critics, detractors and others who have raised several issues around Aadhar, privacy in the recent past."

"iSpirt has been genuinely making an attempt to engage wherever possible sharing information, counselling, other facts to address genuine concerns. Despite this the attack on iSpirt has been relentless and often vitriolic in the recent past," iSpirt said in a statement.

"Most recently, there has been allegations of iSpirt Volunteer(s) reacting to these attacks on the social media, including accusations of personal nature. iSPIRT does not condone any kind of trolling including using abusive language, personal attacks and has always believed in constructive, professional  engagement with all constituents."

"In light of the recent incident, iSPIRT has initiated review of its governance and code of conduct with a view to recommending corrective actions and further strengthening our volunteer model and values. In the meanwhile, Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSPIRT, has already tendered an unconditional apology over the social media attacks," the statement said.

first published: May 23, 2017 08:23 pm

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