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NelsonG

WhiteHat Jr’s founder files $2.6M defamation suit against critic

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Karan Bajaj, an Indian entrepreneur who teaches meditation and in his recent book invites others to live a life away from the noise, is going after the most vocal critic of his startup.

Bajaj, founder of coding platform aimed at kids WhiteHat Jr, has filed a defamation case against Pradeep Poonia, an engineer who has publicly criticized the firm for its marketing tactics, the quality of the courses on the platform, and aggressive takedowns of such feedback.

In the lawsuit — in which Bajaj is seeking $2.6 million in damages — Poonia has been accused of infringing trademarks and copyright of properties owned by WhiteHat Jr, defaming and spreading misleading information about the startup and its founder, and accessing the company’s private communications app.

The lawsuit also accuses Poonia of publicly sharing phone numbers of WhiteHat Jr employees and making strong accusations such as likening the startup’s marketing tactics to “child sexual abuse.”

But the lawsuit, riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, is also indicative of just how little criticism WhiteHat Jr, owned by India’s second most valuable startup Byju’s, is willing to accept.

According to internal posts of a Slack channel of WhiteHat Jr shared by Poonia, the startup has aggressively used copyright protection to take down numerous unflattering feedback about the startup in recent months.

The suit also raises concern with Poonia accusing WhiteHat Jr of “murdering” an imaginary kid that featured in one of its earlier ads.

A 12-year-old child named “Wolf Gupta” appeared in earlier ads of WhiteHat Jr, which claimed that the kid had landed a lucrative job at Google. The kid does not exist, the lawyers of Bajaj say in the suit. Ironically that was also the point Poonia, who spent a long time trying to find more information about this kid, was making in his tweets.

Further reading: 

Rage against the machine: behind Byju’s swift silencing of dissent (The Ken)

India’s WhiteHat Jr is startup hell (The Morning Context)

WhiteHat Jr and the curious case of disappearing dissent (Forbes India)

Advertising body asks WhiteHat Jr to pull down ads (Forbes India)

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