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India warns Twitter to comply or face ‘unintended consequences’

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(Last Updated On: June 5, 2021)

India has told Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) it has one last chance to comply with new IT rules, or face “unintended consequences” according to a copy of an official letter seen by Reuters.

The new rules – which were announced in February and which became effective at the end of last month – are aimed at regulating content on social media and making firms such as Facebook (FB.O), its WhatsApp messenger and Twitter more accountable to legal requests, Reuters reported.

They also require big social media companies to set up grievance redressal mechanisms and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.

India’s technology ministry wrote to Twitter on May 26 and May 28 on the new rules, but the company’s responses “neither address the clarifications sought by this ministry nor indicate full compliance with the Rules,” said the June 5 letter from the technology ministry to Twitter deputy general counsel Jim Baker, Reuters reported.

The letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said that among other things, Twitter had yet to inform the ministry about its chief compliance officer, and its grievance officer and nodal contact person were not employees as mandated by rules.

It said such non-compliance would lead to “unintended consequences” including the possibility that Twitter could be held accountable for content posted on it, an exemption it currently largely enjoys, Reuters reported.

It added, “However, as gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the Rules.”

The technology ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to comment.

The new IT rules have spurred legal battles, including a lawsuit filed by Facebook-owned WhatsApp that accuses the government of exceeding its legal powers by enacting rules that will force the messaging app to break end-to-end encryption.

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Climate change made deadly Europe floods at least 20% more likely: Study

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(Last Updated On: August 24, 2021)

Climate change has made extreme rainfall events of the kind that sent lethal torrents of water hurtling through parts of Germany and Belgium last month at least 20% more likely to happen in the region, scientists said Tuesday.

The downpour was likely made heavier by climate change as well. A day of rainfall can now be up to 19% more intense in the region than it would have been had global atmospheric temperatures not risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, according to research published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) scientific consortium.

“We will definitely get more of this in a warming climate,” said the group’s co-leader Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford told Reuters.

“Extreme weather is deadly,” said Otto, recalling that she urgently contacted family members who live in the affected areas to make sure they were safe when the floods hit. “For me it was very close to home.”

With extreme weather events dominating news headlines in recent years, scientists have been under increasing pressure to determine exactly how much climate change is to blame.

During the last year alone, scientists found that U.S. drought, a deadly Canadian heat wave and wildfires across the Siberian Arctic have been worsened by a warming atmosphere.

The July 12-15 rainfall over Europe triggered flooding that swept away houses and power lines, and left more than 200 people dead, mostly in Germany. Dozens died in Belgium and thousands were also forced to flee their homes in the Netherlands.

“The fact that people are losing their lives in one of the richest countries in the world — that is truly shocking,” said climate scientist Ralf Toumi at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. “Nowhere is safe.”

Although the deluge was unprecedented, the 39 WWA scientists found that local rainfall patterns are highly variable.

So they conducted their analysis over a wider area spanning parts of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. They used local weather records and computer simulations to compare the July flooding event with what might have been expected in a world unaffected by climate change, Reuters reported.

Because warmer air holds more moisture, summer downpours in this region are now 3-19% heavier than they would be without global warming, the scientists found.

And the event itself was anywhere from 1.2 to 9 times — or 20% to 800% — more likely to have occurred.

That broad range of uncertainty was partly explained by a lack of historical records, WWA explained, and worsened by the floods destroying equipment that monitored river conditions.

Still, the “study confirms that global heating has played a big part in the flooding disaster,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist and oceanographer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was not involved in the study.

“This is in line with the finding of the recent IPCC report, which found that extreme rainfall events have increased worldwide,” he added, referring to a U.N. climate panel’s findings.

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China’s first Mars rover starts exploring red planet

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(Last Updated On: May 22, 2021)

China’s first Mars rover, Zhurong, drove down from its landing platform and set its wheels on Martian soil at 10:40 (Beijing Time) on Saturday, according to the telemetry data from the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Zhurong’s first successful drive made China the second country after the United States to land and operate a rover on Mars.

The six-wheeled solar-powered rover slowly trundled off a ramp on the lander to hit the red and sandy soil of Mars, starting its journey to explore the fourth planet from the sun.

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, was launched on July 23, 2020. The lander carrying the rover touched down in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, on May 15, eight days before the rover left the lander.

“The reason why we need eight days is that the rover needs to capture the clear images of the area where it will touch down. If the assessment came out to be no difficulties, risk-free and safe, we will decide which way to go for the guide rail on the lander, which can stretch to this direction or this direction,” said Zhang Yuhua, deputy chief commander of Tianwen-1 mission, with the Eighth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

As planned, Zhurong will stay on Mars for 92 Earth days for explorations, during which the orbiter of Tianwen-1, with a design life of one Martian year (about 687 days on Earth), will relay communications from the rover to Earth. And after it completes the relay communications, the orbiter will continue its own scientific detection operations of Mars.

While on Mars, Zhurong will record the Martian landscape with high-resolution three-dimensional images, analyze the material composition of the planet’s surface, detect its sub-surface structure and magnetic field, search for traces of water ice and observe the surrounding meteorological environment.

“The real Mars-orbiting exploration starts only after the three-month relay communications completes. We hope we could have a comprehensive covering of Martian topography, landform and environment, and the exploratory data of the radar detecting the Martian subsurface during one Martian year. By doing so, our country will have our own abundant and first-hand data about Martian resources,” said Zhang.

Zhurong is named after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology. The name echoes with the Chinese name for the red planet, Huoxing (the planet of fire), while the name of the mission, Tianwen, means Questions to Heaven, the title of a poem by the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan (circa 340-278 BC).

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Millions of WhatsApp users migrate to Signal and Telegram

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

WhatsApp users this week flocked in their millions to other more privacy-based apps like Signal and Telegram after WhatsApp announced they will soon start sharing data with Facebook.

According to Telegram, they recorded an increase of 25 million users in the past 72 hours.

Signal’s Brian Acton said on Tuesday their new user base “exploded” this week.

Acton, who originally co-founded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, said Signal won’t sell its users’ data and that it won’t show its users ads.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has now responded to the mass exodus of users and published an FAQ clarifying the terms of its updated privacy policy and responding to concerns that the firm behind the text-messaging app shares personal information with parent company Facebook.

WhatsApp noted the update doesn’t affect the privacy of messages with friends and family, and instead relates to messaging businesses through the platform.

The company also said the update “provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

WhatsApp emphasized that neither it nor Facebook can see users’ private messages or hear their calls and that WhatsApp also doesn’t keep logs of who people message or call, can’t see your shared location (neither can Facebook), doesn’t share users’ contacts with Facebook and keeps WhatsApp groups private.

The publication of the FAQ follows calls from privacy advocates, concerned users and, notably, Elon Musk, to ditch the Facebook-owned messaging app and instead opt for encrypted messaging apps like Signal.

WhatsApp says personal messages are also protected by end-to-end encryption, but it has for years openly collected certain user data to share with Facebook.

However as experts explained, even WhatsApp has no means of accessing content in transit, while the messages on your phone are protected by the security of your device.

The issue is metadata – the who, when and where around your messages, as well as your contacts and information about your device.

WhatsApp does collect too much data, much more than the likes of Signal, Telegram and iMessage. But when compared to apps like Facebook, Messenger, Google, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, it collects very little.

So, unless you avoid those others, WhatsApp isn’t your biggest problem.

That being said, WhatsApp basically says the changes will mostly affect business accounts and people who chat with businesses, where the data will be used to apparently improve on the experience as well as help create more personalized ads.

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