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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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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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Instagram bans ‘conversion therapy’ content as opposition grows

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(Last Updated On: July 11, 2020)

Instagram said on Friday it would block content that promotes so-called conversion therapy, which aims to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as pressure to ban the practice grows.

The social media giant announced earlier this year it would no longer allow adverts for conversion therapy services, which can range from counseling and ‘praying away the gay’ to electric shocks and sexual violence.

“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s public policy director for Europe, Middle East, and Africa said in an emailed statement.

“(We) are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.”

A spokesman for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it would take time to update all policies and content flagged by users may not be removed immediately.

The United Nations independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity called last month for a global ban on conversion therapy, describing it as “cruel, inhumane and degrading”.

A growing number of countries – including the United States, Canada, Chile, and Mexico – are reviewing their laws. Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta have nationwide bans on conversion therapy, while Germany outlawed the treatment for minors in May.

Instagram’s move is “a step in the right direction, but we’d have to wait and see exactly what kind of actions they take,” Harry Hitchens, co-founder of the campaign group Ban Conversion Therapy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ban Conversion Therapy sent an open letter yesterday to Britain’s Equalities Minister Liz Truss, urging her “to introduce a truly effective ban on conversion therapy for all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and gender diverse people in the UK”.

Among those who signed the letter were musicians Elton John and Dua Lipa and writer and actor Stephen Fry.

Truss pledged in May to ban conversion therapy for sexual orientation.

In a global survey of 1,641 survivors of conversion therapy published by the United Nations in May, 46% identified the perpetrators as being medical and mental health providers, while 19% were religious authorities and traditional healers.

Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBT+ activist who underwent conversion therapy aged 16, welcomed the ban but said it had been “a long time coming”.

“What is missing for me in all of this conversation is the face of it, the horror of it. And I don’t care how terrible it is, people need to see it and see real human beings sharing their story in public,” he said.

 

Source: Reuters 

 

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