On Wednesday, Zomato and its founder Deepinder Goyal received much praise around the internet after refusing to give in when a customer tried to cancel his order because the delivery was being made by a Muslim delivery man. The restaurant aggregator cancelled the order, but charged a fee since the food was already on its way.
The customer complained, and after the company shut him down, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal responded by saying that he was happy to lose the business of anyone who did not support India’s ideals of diversity.
Now, it appears that a number of right-wingers have decided to take him up on the challenge. Although for much of Wednesday, the bigger news was that people were praising Zomato and Goyal, late in the day, a number of tweets suddenly started emerging with the hashtag ‘IStandWithAmit’ (the name of the person who complained).
The people sharing this hashtag have been advising one another to go to the Google Playstore and give Zomato’s app a 1-star rating for being “biased against Hindus”. Many of the same users have also been tweeting a screenshot of an older tweet where a Zomato customer complains about receiving Halal food and gets a refund (most of the tweets are similarly worded too. Nope, not suspicious at all).
Leaving aside the false equivalence of respecting a customer’s religious food preferences versus not allowing people from another community to touch your food (really, how does this customer know that the chef who made the food wasn’t a Muslim?), the trolling of Zomato has been picking up steam. If you go to the app’s Google Play page and sort the reviews by new, you’ll find hundreds of single-star reviews where users are vowing to teach India’s largest food-delivery app a lesson.
Curiously, we also came across a few that accused Zomato of causing caste divide, and spreading religious hate, which suggests that the reasons for the campaign might be unclear to some trolls.
It’s not all trolling though—some people have been leaving 5-star reviews on the Zomato page, praising the company for its stance on this issue, and some people have tweeted that they installed Zomato just to give it a 5-star rating. And while rival Swiggy doesn’t seem to have any thoughts on the matter yet, Uber Eats has also tweeted in support of Zomato, attracting some negative attention itself from trolls.
At the time of writing, the Zomato hashtag on Twitter seems to mostly have positive responses, and had around twice as many tweets as #IStandWithAmit.
This is not the first time right-wingers have tried to target apps on Google Play Store when they feel the company has done something deserving of outrage (usually, this involves taking a stand against hate).
Earlier this year, when Surf Excel released an ad on Holi, it was strangely accused of promoting ‘love jihad’ and met with immediate outrage.
Unable to locate Surf Excel though, trolls ended up giving Microsoft Excel 1-star ratings instead. Even earlier, a similar mix-up took place, with Snapdeal getting 1-star ratings because people were outraging about Snapchat. Snapdeal has borne the brunt of this behaviour in another incident too—outraged by statements Aamir Khan made in 2015 that were seen as critical of the government, Snapdeal was targeted since Khan was its brand ambassador.
Swati Chaturvedi has described this incident in her 2016 book I Am A Troll—she writes that the move to give Snapdeal low ratings was not a spontaneous reaction, but was ordered by the BJP IT cell chief, who wanted to ‘force Snapdeal to dump Aamir’ — and soon after, his contract with the company was not renewed.
This fits in with a larger pattern of coordinated trolling online, via social media, and also apparently app stores. This has become the standard procedure over the last few years, and trends like TempleTerrorAttack come up to fan the flames on any given day.
What this actually means for companies is harder to understand. In recent times, Airtel and Ola have faced similar demands from customers, and not entertained them. Both companies are still alive and kicking, so the impact of such campaigns appears to be limited.