Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and his fiancée, the model Miranda Kerr, have drawn harsh criticism in India following reports that Spiegel allegedly said he didn’t want to “expand into poor countries like India,” according to a lawsuit filing.
Spiegel’s alleged comments, which the suit says he made in September 2015, became public after a court recently unsealed a lawsuit filed by former employee Anthony Pompliano, Variety reports.
Pompliano claims in his suit that he was fired after three weeks with the company when he found inaccuracies in user metrics reported in company filings. The suit says that Spiegel’s alleged remarks came after a discussion of the app’s poor performance in India and Spain.
“This app is only for rich people,” Spiegel allegedly said, according to the lawsuit. “I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain.”
The internet has exploded in backlash. Critics have called for a Snapchat boycott, and are posting one-star reviews of the app. Others have gone so far as to target Kerr, leaving furious and often vulgar comments on her social media posts.
The hashtag #BoycottSnapchat blew up on Monday, with more than 35,000 unique tweets and more than 44,000 retweets, according to the analytics tracker RiteTag.
Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, did not immediately respond to The WorldPost’s request for comment. In a statement to CNN, the company dismissed the claim as “ridiculous” and called Pompliano a “disgruntled former employee.”
“Obviously Snapchat is for everyone,” the company said in its statement. “It’s available worldwide to download for free.”
Spiegel’s verified Twitter account has no posts of its own, but as of Monday the account had “liked” a dozen or so tweets, all of them dated April 16. Those tweets are from users who are defending the company and echoing Snapchat’s characterization of Pompliano as a disgruntled former employee.
Since Spiegel’s social media presence appears to be minimal, some protesters have directed hateful messages at his fiancée’s public accounts instead.
“Tell your f*ing scumbag of a man to think before speaking,” one person commented on Kerr’s Instagram. “So what if everyone living in India is not as rich as him. His dumb app is beneath us.”
Kerr’s management team did not respond to a request for comment.
Some defenders of the app have responded to critics with racial slurs and other abusive language. Many of the more abusive users appear to have private accounts and no posts on their pages.
While only 17 percent of Indian citizens are smartphone users, according to the Pew Research Center, the country is poised to become one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the world. A study from Ericsson, a Sweden-based telecommunications company, estimates that India could have a total of 1.4 billion mobile subscribers by 2021.
Indo-Asian News Service, a news agency, reports that there are 4 million Snapchat users in India.