Sharad Sharma, the co-founder of Indian Software Products Industry Round Table (iSpirit) apologized to trolling Aadhaar critics on Twitter using an anonymous handle, @Confident_India. Sharma had earlier denied that he was associated with the account, even though the troll account was used to reply to questions on Twitter addressed to Sharma. Nandan Nilekani, ex chairman of the UIDAI praised Sharma for apologising, but Aadhaar critics do not believe that an apology is enough after a sustained trolling campaign.
On my flight back from the US, I reflected on my recent behaviour on Twitter.... I unreservedly apologize to all who were hurt... more below pic.twitter.com/IinZIg2yi2
— Sharad Sharma (@sharads) May 23, 2017
Critics have pointed out to The Wire that the apology actually raises a number of questions. The apology does not include Sharma actually admitting to operating the troll account, nor does it name the other people associated with the trolling campaign. While Sharma is getting praised for apologising, there is little thought being given to the victims of the trolling campaign. There are also questions on why iSpirit felt the need to indulge in such tactics, if Aadhaar is fundamentally robust.
Kiran Jonnalagadda verified the connection by using Sharma's mobile phone number to verify the troll twitter account. The troll account was used to harass Aadhaar critics, asking the government to shut them down, and even claiming that the critics were funded by terrorists. According to a report in The Wire, the expose resulted in a "Twitter war" between two groups, those who supported the Aadhaar initiative, and those who believed it to be a disaster in the making.
According to a statement by iSpirit, that has now been corrected in light of the admission by Sharma, the organisation does not classify the harassment campaign as "trolling", but one that seeks to inform the population. "We are aware that some volunteers and their friends have created an anonymous campaign to Support Aadhaar. This is not a troll campaign, but an informational one. It is also not an iSPIRT campaign." Kiran Jonnalagadda has put up a detailed Medium post on the strategies used by the "Aadhaar Troll Mafia".
@Confident_India @criticrahul @Indiaforward2 @munshiji2017 @draveedian @Acitizen13 Here's the full story on #AadhaarTrollMafia. Read till the end. It's far more sinister than one rogue agent trolling https://t.co/9sz3m8GAC9
— Kiran Jonnalagadda (@jackerhack) May 17, 2017
Privacy advocates have pointed out that the digital rights of millions of Indians are at the mercy of an incomplete Aadhaar Act. The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) has revealed that the Government has deliberately treated 130 million Aadhaar numbers as publicly shareable information, without a care for the privacy or security of the people. Even though they were available publicly, the Government has asked the CIS to explain how it obtained the data, and how the numbers were "leaked". The UIDAI's approach to the situation questions the sanctity of investigative activities. The Attorney General for Aadhaar has argued in a Supreme Court hearing that Indians do not have a right to privacy, and do not have absolute control over their own bodies.