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New Personal Data Protection Bill Could Create a World’s First for Social Media in India

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The government’s proposed new privacy bill may require large social media platforms to offer an identity-verification option, a potentially precedent-setting effort to rein in the spread of “fake news”, two government sources told Reuters on Thursday. The requirement would likely raise a host of technical and policy issues for companies including Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram units, Twitter, and Chinese app TikTok, all of which have millions of users in India.

Companies would have to offer a mechanism for users to prove their identities and display that verification publicly, akin to the blue check-mark that Twitter has used to confirm the authenticity of some high-profile accounts, including those belonging to celebrities and politicians. Verification would be optional for users, the sources said.

The Personal Data Protection bill, whose first draft was made public last year, is keenly awaited by top technology companies and industry stakeholders as it could alter the way all major internet companies process, store and transfer Indian consumers’ data.

The identity verification requirement, introduced in the latest draft of the bill, would be one of the most ambitious efforts globally to battle disinformation and fake news, which is often spread by pseudonymous or fake accounts.

“The idea was to reduce the spread of fake news and online trolling,” said one of the sources, a IT ministry official.

The privacy bill was cleared by cabinet on Wednesday and will be presented to parliament soon, officials said. But passage is not imminent, one of the sources said, as the legislation will likely be referred to a parliamentary expert committee or a panel for further review.

Since 2017, fake news and rumour-mongering on social media in India has led to more than 30 deaths, data portal IndiaSpend said last year. The companies have taken some measures to combat the problem – including a move by WhatsApp to limit group-forwarding of messages.

But Facebook and other companies have resisted the idea that they should verify the identity of their users, partly on the grounds that people in many countries would struggle to provide sufficient documentation

The voluntary verification scheme would give users more confidence in the validity of information on the verified accounts, though it would not eliminate fake accounts.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

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NEWS

Millions of Social Media Users in India Set to Lose Their Anonymity

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Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok will have to reveal users’ identities if Indian government agencies ask them to, according to the country’s controversial new rules for social media companies and messaging apps expected to be published later this month. The requirement comes as governments around the world are trying to hold social media companies more accountable for the content that circulates on their platforms, whether it’s fake news, child porn, racist invective or terrorism-related content. India’s new guidelines go further than most other countries’ by requiring blanket cooperation with government inquiries, no warrant or judicial order required.

India proposed these guidelines in December 2018 and asked for public comment. The Internet and Mobile Association of India, a trade group that counts Facebook, Amazon.com, and Alphabet’s Google among its members, responded that the requirements “would be a violation of the right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court.”

But the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is expected to publish the new rules later this month without major changes, according to a government official familiar with the matter.

“The guidelines for intermediaries are under process,” said N.N. Kaul, the media adviser to the minister of electronics & information technology. “We cannot comment on the guidelines or changes till they are published.”

The provisions in the earlier draft had required platforms such as Google’s YouTube or ByteDance’s TikTok, Facebook or its Instagram and WhatsApp apps, to help the government trace the origins of a post within 72 hours of a request. The companies would also have to preserve their records for at least 180 days to aid government investigators, establish a brick-and-mortar operation within India and appoint both a grievance officer to deal with user complaints and a government liaison. The Ministry is still finalising the language and content.

The rules cover all social media and messaging apps with more than 5 million users. India, with 1.3 billion people, has about 500 million Internet users. It isn’t clear whether the identities of foreign users would be subject to the Indian government’s inquiries.

Law enforcement agencies around the world have been frustrated by tech companies that have refused to identify users, unlock devices or generally cooperate with government investigations, particularly in cases relating to terrorism.

In India, where the Internet — and fake news — are still relatively new phenomenon, a false report of rampant child abduction and organ harvesting circulated widely via WhatsApp, leading to mob violence and over three dozen fatal lynchings in 2017 and 2018.

WhatsApp refused a request from the government to reveal the origins of the rumours, citing its promise of privacy and end-to-end encryption for its 400 million Indian users. It instead offered to fund research into preventing the spread of fake news and mounted a public education campaign in the country, its biggest global market.

WhatsApp will “not compromise on security because that would make people less safe,” it said in a statement Wednesday, adding its global user base had reached over 2 billion. “For even more protection, we work with top security experts, employ industry leading technology to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues — without sacrificing privacy.”

At the same time, tech companies and civil rights groups say the new rules are an invitation to abuse and censorship, as well as a burdensome requirement on new and growing companies.

In an open letter to IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, executives from Mozilla, GitHub, and Cloudflare said the guidelines could lead to “automated censorship” and “increase surveillance.“ In order to be able to trace the originator of content, platforms would basically be required to surveil their users, undermine encryption, and harm the fundamental right to privacy of Indian users, they said.

Companies such as Mozilla or Wikipedia wouldn’t fall under the new rules, the government official said. Browsers, operating systems, and online repositories of knowledge, software development platforms, are all exempt. Only social media platforms and messaging apps will be covered.

© 2020 Bloomberg LP

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Facebook, Instagram and YouTube: Government forcing companies to protect you online

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Although many of the details have still to be confirmed, it’s likely the new rules will apply to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Instagram

We often talk about the risks you might find online and whether social media companies need to do more to make sure you don’t come across inappropriate content.

Well, now media regulator Ofcom is getting new powers, to make sure companies protect both adults and children from harmful content online.

The media regulator makes sure everyone in media, including the BBC, is keeping to the rules.

Harmful content refers to things like violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse.

The new rules will likely apply to Facebook – who also own Instagram and WhatsApp – Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, and will include things like comments, forums and video-sharing.

Platforms will need to ensure that illegal content is removed quickly, and may also have to “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all.

These plans have been talked about for a while now.

The idea of new rules to tackle ‘online harms’ was originally set out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in May 2018.

The government has now decided to give Ofcom these new powers following research called the ‘Online Harms consultation’, carried out in the UK in 2019.

Plans allowing Ofcom to take control of social media were first spoken of in August last year.

The government will officially announce these new powers for Ofcom on Wednesday 12 February.

But we won’t know right away exactly what new rules will be introduced, or what will happen to tech or social media companies who break the new rules.

Children’s charity the NSPCC has welcomed the news. It says trusting companies to keep children safe online has failed.

“Too many times social media companies have said: ‘We don’t like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we’ll do something, leave it to us,'” said chief executive Peter Wanless.

“Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.

To enjoy the CBBC Newsround website at its best you will need to have JavaScript turned on.

Back in Feb 2018 YouTube said they were “very sorry” after Newsround found several videos not suitable for children on the YouTube Kids app

The UK government’s Digital Secretary, Baroness Nicky Morgan said: “There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing.”

“I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming.”

In many countries, social media platforms are allowed to regulate themselves, as long as they stick to local laws on illegal material.

But some, including Germany and Australia, have introduced strict rules to force social media platforms do more to protect users online.

In Australia, social media companies have to pay big fines and bosses can even be sent to prison if they break the rules.

For more information and tips about staying safe online, go to BBC Own It, and find out how to make the internet a better place for all of us.

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Google Surpasses Facebook in Downloads for First Time in 5 Years in Q4 2019: Sensor Tower

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US-based search engine giant Google has, for the first time in five years, unseated Facebook as the top publisher of mobile apps in Q4 2019.

In the last quarter of 2019, Google amassed close to 850 million downloads compared to Facebook‘s nearly 800 million, analytics firm Sensor Tower revealed recently.

When it comes to overall downloads for the year, however, Google still trails behind Facebook.

While Google raked in nearly 2.3 billion downloads, Facebook gained almost 3 billion downloads over the past 12 months.

Facebook owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, that does not come as a surprise.

sensor tower body Call of Duty

Call of Duty: Mobile was the most downloaded game last quarter, followed by Sand Balls
Photo Credit: Sensor Tower

ByteDance-owned video sharing app TikTok was the world’s second-most downloaded app in 2019.

The figures show that TikTok downloads reached an all-time high in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2019, with nearly 220 million installs, which represented a 24 per cent increase over Q3 2019.

Sensor Tower also reports that TikTok’s revenue grew by a massive 540 per cent year-on-year in Q4 2019.

Additionally, Disney+ was downloaded more than 30 million times in Q4 2019 in the US, which is more than double of its next nearest competitor, TikTok.

In terms of revenue, Disney+ grossed more than $50 million in its first 30 days, beating out other subscription video on demand (SVOD) rivals, like HBO NOW and Showtime.

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