Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday, 12 December, defended a series of tweets about his recent meditation retreat in Myanmar that were pilloried on his own platform for failing to mention the persecution of Rohingya Muslims.
Dorsey's thread on Sunday, 9 December, came after a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat near Mandalay, in which he praised the country's food, beauty and its people, whom he said were "full of joy".
The comments drew heat online for leaving out any discussion of atrocities committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority during a military crackdown last year. The crackdown had sparked an exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingyas who have since fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the violence and the destruction.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, 12 December, Dorsey defended his actions but conceded he could have handled the situation better.
Dorsey said he has been a long-time meditator and wanted to travel to Buddhist-majority Myanmar where Vipassana is practised in its "original form".
According to AFP, Twitter is not nearly as popular in Myanmar as Facebook, which has been accused of not doing enough to control hate speech that fueled anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim sentiment. But hate speech during the Rohingya crisis also spilled over onto the micro-messaging site.
Dorsey batted away speculation that there was a business twist to the visit, saying he had no conversations with the government during his trip, and described the platform as a way to raise awareness about human rights issues.
What Was the Original Tweet?
In a series of tweets on Sunday, 9 December, Dorsey had said he had traveled to northern Myanmar in November for a meditation retreat.
“The people are full of joy and the food is amazing,” he said, before encouraging his four million followers to visit.
This led to widespread criticism of the Twitter chief, with some accusing him of ignoring the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority.
Twitter Users Slam Dorsey
"Writing what is effectively a free tourism advert for them at this time is reprehensible," a Twitter user had written in response to Dorsey's tweets.
"The tone-deafness here is... wow," another user had said. "This is an extremely irresponsible recommendation," yet another read. "Does he pay no attention to the news and the outcry on his own platform?"
The UN has described the military crackdown against Rohingyas as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and says senior Myanmar officials should be investigated and tried for genocide.
Mohammed Jamjoom, an Al Jazeera correspondent, who has interviewed Rohingya refugees, said he was left "utterly speechless" by Dorsey's tweets.
Dorsey came under fire during his India visit earlier as well.
On a trip to India in November, Dorsey was accused of inciting hatred against the highest caste after he was photographed holding a poster declaring, "Smash Brahminical Patriarchy".
(With inputs from AFP, PTI and IANS.)