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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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DPC says Schrems must clarify plans for Facebook complaint documents as matter of ‘urgency’

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Solicitor’s letter issued to Schrems relates to an ongoing dispute over a privacy complaint against Facebook relating to GDPR

The DPC is currently investigating a complaint made against Facebook by an Austrian citizen with the help of Noyb, a privacy group set up by Max Schrems. Picture: Bloomberg

Ireland’s data watchdog has asked Max Schrems, the Austrian privacy campaigner, to clarify “as a matter of some urgency” the details of documents he plans to publish relating to a privacy complaint against Facebook.

In fresh correspondence, issued on behalf of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) by Philip Lee Solicitors, Schrems’s Noyb group is asked to identify the documents it has promised to release over the coming month in what it…

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The RNC Is Raising Funds Off Trump’s New Social-Media Platform

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Committee winter meeting at his Washington, D.C. hotel in February 2018.

Former President Donald Trump’s businesses have pocketed at least $2.8 million from the Republican National Committee. Now the RNC seems to be flipping the script.

Two weeks after Trump announced plans to launch a social-media platform named Truth Social, the RNC sent out a fundraising blast telling supporters that any donation would qualify them as a “Trump Social Media Founding Supporter.” There’s no mention of what, if anything, comes with that designation.

Spokespeople for the RNC and former president have not replied to inquiries.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a separate group, also is using Trump’s new venture to bring in money The NRSC’s ad doesn’t offer any special memberships, but it does ask would-be donors, “Would you join Trump’s Platform?” Meanwhile the National Republican Congressional Committee is growing its mailing list with ads pegged to Trump’s social-media app.

The RNC’s campaign, which also includes Facebook ads, appears to have launched on November 3.

The RNC’s solicitation also includes pre-checked boxes that would make the contribution reoccur monthly.

Donors to the Republican National Committee would qualify to be a “Trump social media founding supporter,” according to a fundraising message.

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Facebook whistleblower to testify in European Parliament – EU Reporter

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The EU’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is Parliament’s priority for the EU’s budget for next year. Find out more in our interview with MEP Karlo Ressler (pictured).

The Parliament is currently negotiating the EU’s 2022 budget with the Council. Croatian EPP member Ressler, who is responsible for guiding the legislation through Parliament, explains Parliament’s priorities:

What are the Parliament’s priorities for the EU’s 2022 budget?

The number one priority is to support the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and also, and this is really connected, to lay the foundation for a more resilient Union. We want to invest in a vibrant economy to help small and medium-sized companies and in employment, especially for young people. The second priority would be to continue with the digital and green transformation. Thirdly, we want to develop a strong, healthy union.

We also want to focus specifically on the younger generation and our children. Here Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps are maybe the two most visible examples, but in the end most of our programmes are directly or indirectly also focusing on young people.

It’s important to really be strong and unified here in the Parliament, because in that way, we can get better results in the negotiations with the Council.

How do you expect the budget to speed up the recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic?

After the crisis, we have to be ambitious. We have to invest. That’s the basic idea. In practical terms that means investing more and assisting those who have been affected the most. In this context, we believe in effectively supporting SMEs all over Europe. This is something fairly tangible.

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How can the budget help, for example, to address the situation in Afghanistan that suddenly developed?

We attempt to address it by investing more in humanitarian aid. That was the main purpose of one of the biggest amendments by the European Parliament. I think that all the institutions agree that these are unforeseen developments, that the world is really changing fast, and that we cannot ignore all those changes. We will have to work closely with the Commission and the Council to try to find a solution. We are still waiting for a real concrete proposal by the Commission, but we attempt to address it primarily through a special line on humanitarian aid for Afghan people and for the neighboring countries.

This year has witnessed unforeseen challenges like the current energy price hike, Afghanistan and environmental disasters. Is it becoming trickier to decide on an annual EU budget as a lot of money to deal with unexpected situations has to be put aside?

I would say yes. It’s difficult for the EU when we have a pandemic and it’s the biggest crisis of our generation. It has made us understand that we have to be more resilient. We have to be prepared to act swiftly and it’s impossible to act swiftly without adequate financing.

At the same time, we hope that we have created a budget that is tailor-made for all: that addresses the problems of all generations, regions and sectors. We know that the consequences of the pandemic have been asymmetrical and that’s why it has been important to translate our political priorities into real figures.

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